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Hope in Numbers: Seeing the Data in Ramallah

05/17/2024 12:46:43 PM


Rabbi Shoshanah

Though our trip was short, we were lucky enough to  have the opportunity to meet with some thinkers and leaders in Palestine. These folks were, at some personal risk, meeting with us in order to help us understand some of the "on-the-ground" public opinion and efforts toward ending the conflict from the Palestinian side. It was very informative.

A Word About A Word: Palestine


This word is hard for some of us to hear. We have always learned that there is no such thing as Palestine. We have learned that it is a made-up ethnic entity. We have learned that it represents a gaslighting of the Zionist project and of Jews who see our heritage as a specific people with a specific tie to the land. We learned that the Arabs made it up in 1948 to avoid having to absorb displaced Arab residents of the new State of Israel.

This story may be true. But, it is also not fully true.

We are in a mess, and the partner we need has an identity and a story. When we approach another to make peace, or even to make conversation or to collaborate on something meaningful, we must meet the person in front of us. We gain nothing by approaching the person we wish they were or think they should be. We gain nothing by denying their story. We can choose to do so, but not if we want to partner with them.

I have used the word "Palestine" on the bimah in a non-disparaging way. A few KI members have shared their discomfort with this choice. We are not used to it. I remember the book in my school library in 1990 about this population and their struggle, and the book called them Palestinians. It used the word, "Palestine." And I was vaguely uncomfortable. Wasn't I supposed to negate this? Here it was in my school library. I have felt this discomfort, even back then.

Here we are today: I sat in the Millenium Hotel in Ramallah (the de facto capitol of the West Bank). There I met with Palestinian thought leaders.

But, what struck me as profoundly as their words were the words on the tissue box and hotel-branded pens in front of me: "Millenium Hotel, Ramallah, Palestine." This sense of place and identity is real for our potential partners. It is, for them, a fact.

If we want a way forward--if we want a way toward peace (if not friendship) --we must make peace and make friends with this word.

Using the word Palestine--without denigration or negation--is essential to the future of this conversation, if we dare to converse.

Mon, June 24 2024 18 Sivan 5784