I called my project Women in War: A Portrait of Israeli and Palestinian Women before I had even arrived to Israel. It goes to show how little one can know about a situation before arrival. There is no war (in the American sense of the word), there is little visible violence now.
The wars I’ve encountered: include the internal war within oneself; the struggle to continue hope for peace despite endless failed attempts; the war within one’s culture, against female oppression and the resistance of modernity; the war against one’s beliefs to accept the “other” as merely human with no binding labels.
There is no war, but this is not to say there wouldn’t be if circumstances were different. War isn’t allowed here anymore. Everything is so tightly controlled by both governments, watched over and regulated, which on the one hand surely enforces safety, but on another, further encourages the divide. What I’ve found is that the governmental restrictions, especially upon movement and freedom of speech, have perpetuated the notion of the “other,” and it seems quite intentional. I’ve met so many Arabs and Israeli’s who are curious about the other side, who want to visit “the forbidden land,” who want to understand the “other.” However, the stories I’ve heard about how both Israeli and Palestinian governments quiet these desires, censor voices of opposition, severely punish those who engage in peaceful interactions with the “other” side, have clarified the reason that fear and hatred still exist amongst neighbors.
For example, after the Al-Jazeera wikileaks, the mosque in Jericho spent the day assuring the town over loud speakers that all information on the news about the Palestinian government was false. At the hand of the government, the mosque was attempting to enforce an lack of awareness that exists amongst many Palestinian communities. So I ask, why fear those who, because of their situation, are not allowed to see the whole picture? Why not, bring them alternative viewpoints, show them the other side? Both Israeli’s and Palestinians. I think this needs to be the focus and responsibility of us internationals.
The most peace building seen here is on a civilian level, you hear very little about peace on a governmental level. Individual people are connecting Israeli’s and Palestinians through women’s circles, yoga classes, theater productions, etc. but many of these ambitions are stifled by the inability to move freely throughout this land. Great opportunities have been squashed, because of rejected permit requests and/or circumstantially encountering a grumpy soldier on duty one day. From what I’ve seen, peace wants to be had, there are just too many political and bureaucratic obstacles in the way.