Saturday, March 12, 2005
Lives on Hold: Birthright vs Right of Return
It was my last day in the country after coming to Israel on a Birthright trip, a free 10-day trip to Israel given to anyone who is young and Jewish. I had come for the ten days and stayed for two months to work in Palestine. I figured that seeing Israel without seeing Palestine would be selling myself short - it wouldn`t really be cashing in on my birthright. This right came easily to me - I simply registered and was on the trip. However, such rights don`t come so easily to others.
The plight of Palestinians was one little story that wasn`t mentioned during our Birthright tour. We never heard the stories of places like Deir Yasin, Al Qubaybah, or other Arab villages which were obliterated underneath Israel`s creation. At one point during the tour, we were out in the countryside when a tour guide pointed out a patch of cacti, and noted that those were a sign that an Arab village used to be here. Nobody raised an eyebrow, and the group moved on, made to believe that these Arabs must have just packed up peacefully and said goodbye to their new neighbors.
I have the option to make Aliyah, move to Israel, and enjoy all the peace I want on the shores of Eilat or Tel Aviv. But what lacked during the Oslo Accords is also lacking from the peace talks at the moment, and that is justice for the Palestinian refugees. It`s hard to imagine a peace without this.
I had the privilege of standing in that wonderful spot in Jerusalem to gaze at the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Any Jew in the world can take advantage of this too. It may be a peaceful view, but until all Palestinians, including the Shawabkas and the Ayoubs, can move freely throughout their lands and return to their homes, the Dome of the Rock is but a symbol immortalized in photos and postcards.