Standing for peace in Israel

Ilan Palte | Class of 2019

Standing on the Green Line that divides Israel proper from the West Bank was not how I imagined the most impactful moment of my 12th-grade Israel trip. I looked forward to taking touristy pictures kissing the weathered stones of the Western Wall or floating in the sparkling blue Dead Sea. Yet, upon arriving and spending time in the world’s only Jewish state, I found myself more drawn to the modern political and social context surrounding Israel than its equally important foundations.

I was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish household and attended a Jewish day school. Of course I was pro-Israel. What I didn’t know for the first 17 years of my life was why. What made my mentors instill in me a love for Israel? Why was my religion inherently pro-Israel? Most importantly, why was I pro-Israel?

I stepped into the West Bank expecting to feel a stronger tie to my religion. I would be closer to Jericho, the place the Jews had taken their first steps in conquering the land over 3,000 years ago, and I would be on the same side of the Green Line as the grave of Rachel. I thought I would be taking a step into the past, into my past. My first stride over the narrow ditch that separates Israel from the West Bank, however, took me in a different direction. Instead of drawing me into the past, it sucked me into the present and the future.

The town of Barta’a, characterized by frantically busy narrow streets and small bustling shops, shocked me into the reality of why I stand with Israel. Less than six months after Operation Protective Edge, the war of summer 2014, I found myself in a Palestinian city that was running normally and peacefully. I walked through the town with my Jewish friends and teachers, talking to and interacting with the Palestinian civilians. We greeted each other, smiled and shook hands. These people lived peacefully and deserved nothing less than to live peacefully. Above all, they wanted to live peacefully.

My first instinct was to separate this town from Israeli cities, but I found myself doing the opposite. Not only did this town have the markets of Yafo and the green backdrop of Kiryat Shmona, it had the same attitude as the entire state of Israel. The desire to live in peace is a core value embraced by Israelis from the Red Sea to the Golan Heights. Within Israel, however, this quality is representative of a much stronger attribute: resilience. Through all of the wars, antagonism and recent rocket attacks and stabbings Israel has faced, it has remained a resilient and hopeful nation focused on providing peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, this hope is not confined to Israel’s boundaries; it extends to America’s Jewry and pro-Israel community.

I stand with Israel because I stand with the irrepressible yearning for peace—for both Israelis and Palestinians. I stand with Israel, because I share its same hope and optimism. Just as Israel stands strong in the face of adversity, war and tranquility alike, I will demonstrate my unwavering support for its strength and resilience. With the wave of violence and incitement stemming from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority sweeping through the streets of the Middle East’s only democracy, I stand stronger than ever for the hope of peace and an end to the heartbreaking civilian casualties.

Come join me this Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the Wash U Stands with Israel rally to show your support of peace, share your narrative and begin a discussion about what is happening now in Israel.

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