Multi-ethnic student shares his optimistic perspective on Israel, Palestine and peace
I am not here to offer a side for or against the State of Israel and debate endlessly in a battle of words. I want to share a personal perspective on the place.
In English and Spanish my name is Luis Rene Carrillo; my Hebrew name is Lavi Ben-Miriam. I am a Jewish, Mexican/Salvadorian, Educational Opportunity Program student at CSUN, and a proud Matador. Spanish was the first language I learned, followed by English and eventually Hebrew. I was born in the neighborhood of Los Feliz and grew up in North Hollywood.
My perspective started to develop when I read a book on the creation of the State of Israel, and I was instantly touched. I sat in tears as I heard a recording of the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, read Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Time passed and my heart burned with pride as I learned of Israel’s achievements in water conservancy, modern technology, the sciences, humanitarian aid, and the vast amount it has contributed to the world.
0During my first visit to Israel last winter I remember standing in awe at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, as I observed the vibrant society and rich cultural life that makes Israel so special. This, after losing so much after the Holocaust, was something the founders sought to create, and there I was witnessing it less than a century later. I saw an Arab family perusing through a casual clothing store; an Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Israeli arguing over the price of vegetables; Hebrew-speaking Filipino children playing soccer in one alley; an Ethiopian and Yemenite couple walking down another alley; and a Druze woman selling unique food.
One simple observation of the place was all it took for me to realize that Israel was made up of more than just one, uniform-looking people. In the Northern city of Haifa, where there is a big Arab population, the motto of the city is said to be, “Live and let live.” The city is reminiscent of beach-side Los Angeles as it is close to the water, is very diverse, and has a very accepting demeanor to it. One witnesses Arabs and Jews living together, side by side, in a peace they appreciate and desire to keep.
I had grown to love my Israel, the one democratic country surrounded by nations struggling with modernity; a region where equality, human rights, and democracy seem to be ideological burdens of Israel and the western nations. Yet, my thinking was lacking something very important.
I had failed to see the other side because I simply had no perspective. For the past couple of years I had grown to oppose Islamists, followers of radical Islam, and completely failed to think of the Palestinians. I had grown to stand by the radical, right-wing supporters of Israel and failed to criticize my perfect nation.
Thankfully, that changed.
It started when I met a Palestinian-born girl of college age. She looked at the Star of David pendant on my necklace and asked, “You’re Jewish?” I answered with a curious, “Yes, why do you ask?” We started conversation and somehow ended up speaking about Israel and the Palestinians. For the first time in my life I felt doubt and discomfort with my position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She was not screaming, nor was she attacking me in any way. The longer we spoke on the issue the more tired and sad her demeanor seemed to get. I went home and pondered upon this experience for a while until the need to find answers took hold of me.
Essentially, I finally grew up and my one-sided mind accepted a different opinion. I heard Dr. Kassem Nabulsi, a Palestinian-born Israeli and professor at CSUN, speak at CSUN Hillel about his take on it all. He did not deny the existence of Israel. In fact, he sounded like every Jewish Israeli I had ever met—he wanted peace! The man spoke with a heavy calm about a two-state, two-people solution. I say “heavy” because it is a great weight to bear to be so learned about an issue that describes an important part of your identity; an issue that has been on the table for decades. His perspective had a profound effect on my position of the conflict.
It took a powerful lecture in my Jewish Studies 496 class, Israel’s History and Peoples, for it to finally hit me. The Palestinian people had been ignored and manipulated by the world. It saddened me to learn that Israel had constantly been backed into a corner with the concept of a double-standard thrust in its face while the Palestinian people were put on the back-burner. Both sides were in a Catch-22. The world was easily ready to point fingers left and right as it lost itself in the endless debates. The Palestinian people and Israel grew to become two sides of a debate rather than two people struggling to make peace with one another.
My perspective changed as I learned that both people want peace and were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of it. Let the radicals on both sides bicker until their beards hit the floor, while the open-minded and peaceful learn from each other.
Such a mindset is that of the national grassroots movement known as “One Voice.” The movement, as stated on the One Voice website, “[seeks to amplify] the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution.”
I was inspired when I read of college-aged Israelis and Palestinians working together to make long-awaited peace come to fruition. One needs only go to onevoicemovement.org to see the amazing work that is being done to make peace a reality.
I have come full circle in my perspective of things relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I love Israel and what it represents. Yet, I have become more understanding of the Palestinian side. I do not seek to engage in one-sided debates as that usually lead to anger and more conflict. I grew to be critical and sympathetic to both sides. Therefore, I recognize that this is not a black-and-white situation and desire nothing more than a lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.
I hope the two people can reconcile and finally live together in peace. May the world see a day, hopefully soon, where we talk about Israel and the Palestinians in better terms.