Finding Common Ground

A first-hand exploration of the conflict between Israel and Palestine

DAY 4
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 5, 2005
JERUSALEM

We spent the early morning with Mark Louria who is part of the group of Israeli citizens who lobbied the govt to build what is called here the “security fence.” Louria moved here with his wife and kids from Cleveland approximately 15 years ago. He works for Direct TV here in Israel. Louria considers himself part of the political left here in Israel. It doesn’t take long to realize here that political distinctions of right and left mean very different things here than they do in the states. According to Louria, the fence saves lives here by closing off open fields that terrorists previously used to cross into Israel. Statistics he (and others) gave us indicate that the number of attempts at terrorist violence has dropped dramatically.

The fence is an enormously controversial issue here. While some Israelis believe it will save lives many Palestinians think it is truly meant to strangle them by isolating them geographically, economically, socially etc.

According to Louria the fence will cost $1.5 billion dollars (2.5 million per mile) the fence consists of a wall for only 3% of its length–which we saw around Bethlehem and Jerusalem –the rest conaists of 3 barbed wire fences with a road in between for security patrols to drive on.

Next we went to Yad Veshem (pictured, left), the Israeli Holocaust museum. It is an institution that includes a large museum with a very powerful exhibit on the Holocaust and the events leading up to it as well as outdoor memorials, including the Righteous among the Nations which honors the non-jews
who helped out during the Holocaust. Currently more than 21,000 people are honored there with planted trees and other memorials. Oskar Schinlder’s memorial (pictured, right)is very close to the front.

We then went to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Sara Meltzer is very politically connected here and she arranged for us to meet with three different MKs (member of Knesset)as well as the diplomatic adviser to the speaker of the Knesset. The three reps we met were Eti Livnit from the center left secular Jewish party, Aisam Mchool an Arab-Israeli and Benny Elon from the far right. We had spirited discussions especially with Elon who has very extreme beliefs about not creating two separate states here and would most likely be considered a fundamentalist Jew.

This evening we had a talk from Rabbi Rich Kischner who is from Rabbis for Human Rights, a very liberal group who works for Human rights among Palestinians here. It was instructive to hear from a religious Jew (Rabbi Kischner is a reform rabbi) because so much of the religious dialog here appears to be from the very orthodox. We head north to Haifa tomorrow where we will visit Nazareth.


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