Part I

Wow, people – my people – my American (mostly) people… As you probably know, I have moved on from the beautiful country of Israel, but I am compelled to write one last post on this country in constant conflict to convey what’s going on over there. Please take some time to read this post…

I was never really informed about the Israeli struggle before, are you? I must admit, before I visited and had close friends there, it wasn’t even something I thought much about. How arrogant to turn your head away from this… Not only for the Israeli’s sake, but to think it won’t affect America?? Oyyyy. In the states when I’d hear something on the news about Israel or the Middle East in general, it all seemed like one vast, dusty, desert problem that I couldn’t be bothered with. It’s so easy to remain removed from a conflict so far away…  Stupid stupid stupid…

It’s not that I wasn’t sensitive to it; I hate the thought of any war or violent conflict, and still was naively hoping that they could somehow find a way to all sit around the campfire and sing kum-ba-ya*. But with everything we hear in the news about the Middle East, Hamas, Muslim brotherhood, Hezbollah, Sunni’s and Shia’s, etc. and the Israeli army always fighting, I just couldn’t really relate to it and honestly didn’t take the time to understand it.

*Israeli friends – Kum-ba-ya is a happy Girl Scout reference common in American culture.

First, let me give you some context to the size of the country and geographical location, because it’s important to understand. Eryn you obviously slept through geography class because, embarrassingly enough, all you knew really, was that Israel was some coastal country of biblical importance somewhere “over there” in the Middle East…

Ok people, check it out…Israel_Map

I liken Israel to the panhandle of Florida – say similar distance from Pensacola to Gainesville (less than 5 hrs drive – North to South in Israel and less than 1 hr East to West). But then, you would have Jacksonville and all of South Florida, along with Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina, all hating you, and bluntly, wanting to abolish your people and take your land. Israel’s neighboring countries of course, being; Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the East and Egypt to the South… Then just beyond these countries are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq… Geez, they are surrounded by radical countries exponentially larger than they are… The ultimate David and Goliath story… Oyyyy..

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Then look how small the country is in comparison to their surrounding enemy countries…

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So, basically as I understand it, it all boils down to who has the right to own/govern/have religious control of Israel the country. The Arabs believe that they have the rightful ownership to it and don’t even believe that a Jewish state has the right to exist at all, and the Jewish (both religious and non religious), obviously believe that it is theirs and that they have the right to this Jewish country – As it is currently considered.

I will tell you right up front, that everyone I know there are considered non religious Jewish Israeli’s (this is the way they designate themselves – religious or non religious). I have not interviewed or discussed these views with any Arab Palestinian Israeli’s to get their side of the story… I’m sure your family and friends are happy you did not conduct interviews!! LOL… I just wanted to jump right out there and tell you that I cannot adequately convey the Palestinian side of the story… Although I did meet someone interesting this past week in Rome who is more sympathetic to the Palestinian side, and I am hoping that he will write up something I can include later showing another viewpoint… But that’s what the whole conflict seems to be centered around – They are both fighting to maintain/gain control of this holy land – this tiny country with no oil, the size of New Jersey (actually smaller than the panhandle of Florida, in my previous example).

Let me break it down for you… There are 2 problem areas (currently) within Israel; The West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These are the areas you’ve heard about on the news… Well, there were two important wars, one in 1948 and the other in 1967… I won’t go into the details of it – you can google it for more info if you’re interested… But after the 1967 war, one result was that the small area of the West Bank, which was once Jordanian (Palestinian) controlled, changed over to Israeli control, however, many Arab Palestinians remained there.

Look at the first map – the large green area carved out of the natural eastern border of Israel. This area has inhabitants that are Israeli Jewish AND Arab Palestinian – some areas of the West Bank are Israeli ruled and some Palestine ruled. They separate themselves into their own different villages throughout the West Bank, but they are constantly in conflict with one another. Well, actually, let’s be clear, it seems the Jewish people just want to live in peace and keep to themselves, and the Arabs, seemingly volatile in nature, cause the conflict and the Jewish people defend themselves…. That’s worth repeating – The Israeli’s countrywide are defending themselves!!!

P1070457Wall separates the West Bank from the peaceful Israeli side…

P1070454This is a sign I saw while driving back from the Dead Sea.  It was an entrance point to a Palestinian area of the West Bank…

Speaking of dangers in the West Bank – While I was in Israel, 3 teenage boys were kidnapped from that area. The 3 boys were from a Jewish village there and it seems that Hamas, one of the many extreme Arab groups has abducted them.   Apparently this is not as uncommon as you would think – young Jewish kids being kidnapped from the West Bank…

Here are some pictures from the newspaper while I was there…  People gathering at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to pray for their safe return.

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And when I tell you they were kidnapped, it’s not like in the states when someone is abducted… I mean, it’s an equally tragic event, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to minimize any kidnapping… But when it happens in Israel, it ignites a huge political/religious upheaval within the country, and believe me when I tell you the energy of the whole country was elevated when this happened. I could feel it… I felt it from my friends… Coming out of the television… I felt it in myself as I watched the expressions of my friends’ faces and listened to the inflection of voices on the foreign Hebrew news broadcast…  I felt it in the streets…  It was all around… It reminded me (on a much smaller scale, of course) of how Americans were after 9/11, all of us fixed around our televisions waiting for news…  And in Israel, acts like this spark the long-standing rivalry between the two clashing cultures and it just further displays that the extreme Arab Muslim groups have no interest in making peace. (Notice I said the extreme Arab Muslim groups – I am aware that peaceful Muslims exist… This is not about them).

My Israeli friends were translating for me what they were hearing on the news.. They said that all the Arab prisoners being held in Israel were shouting and cheering when it became public that the boys were kidnapped. Apparently the last person that was kidnapped; his release was traded for 1000 prisoners’ release, so they cheer because they hope their release will be used as a trading card… Deplorable – Appalling – Aggggghhhhhhh!!!! I am David preparing my slingshot… Aaaagghhh!!!!  

Let’s jump to the second area of issue – in the far southwest of Israel – The Gaza strip… Refer to your maps children… LOL… I didn’t understand much about Gaza before either, except what little we heard in the news… “Bombings in the Gaza strip, missiles launched from the Gaza strip, etc.” I don’t really know what I thought before… Again, just one big dusty volatile mess “over there”, but here’s what’s up…. The Gaza strip is geographically a small area, about the size of Ft. Myers, Florida, but they pack a big punch… They are completely controlled by the radical Arabs and consequently they are in a continual state of volatility. They are constantly shooting bombs, missiles, etc. directly into Israel, basically just because they feel like it… A fly landed on my arm today, I think I’ll bomb Israel??? This is like in Florida, Ft. Myers sending bombs over into Naples, or Tampa to Orlando, Key West to Big Pine, or in North Carolina, Pinehurst to Southern Pines. I mean, this is freakin’ unbelievable people! And the Gaza bombers go to schools and other civilian populated places to launch their attacks so the Israeli army won’t proactively counter attack the innocent bystanders. Searching a big rock for my slingshot… Aaagghhhhhh!!!!

P1060547These are some tanks parked in a field just a few hundred feet from a public road that we were driving on in the Golan Heights area…  You see a military presence everywhere you go…

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The Israeli’s that live near the Gaza strip have bunkers and there’s a siren system in place, so if bombs are coming across that can’t be intercepted by the Israeli army, the alarms go off and people run into their bunkers. I hear people spend days, sometimes weeks a month living in their bunkers because it’s too risky to live in their above ground homes. These are people just trying to go about their normal lives. Can you imagine living in this constant state of fear and awareness? Sorry, can’t go to the movies today, gotta hide in my bunker…

The Gaza people are even digging tunnels underground into Israeli territory so they can infiltrate normal Israeli civilization, as they are not permitted to legally enter Israel. They use these tunnels to kidnap people, carry out bombings and smuggle weapons into the peaceful areas of Israel. Whoa, these people are freakin’ radical!!! You already knew that Eryn… Yes but there is constant danger so close to people you love… And there is no peace in site… And violence will likely only escalate as years go on…. Aaaaggghhhhhh.. Slingshot in hand!!!

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Look how close my friends live to Gaza…  Easily within missile range…   Aaaggghhhhhh!!!!

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I asked my friends why the Jewish Israeli’s continued to live there in the West Bank with so many threats from their immediate Arab neighbors inside the West Bank… They explained that even though it would be easier and safer for them to move into the more peaceful areas of Israel, they stay because if they leave, the Arabs will totally take over the West Bank. This would give them more land mass and power to escalate their radical forces. It would be a larger, more powerful version of the Gaza strip. These Jewish people are standing their ground… They’re digging in… Even in the face of danger and with their children being kidnapped, they refuse to leave the areas they call home…. Talk about standing up for what you believe in… That’s gotta be an inner battle they fight with themselves every day… To stay or to go…

P1060551This is a T-shirt I saw when I was there.  Some of the extremely religious Jews don’t believe in fighting at all and that the power of prayer and God will protect Israel – Here’s hoping!!!!

The Israeli army apparently has some of the most advanced military technology available today, and they work constantly at keeping the bad guys in check. They have something called “The Iron Dome” that intercepts bombs coming from Gaza as they fly across the sky towards Israel. It supposedly intercepts about 90% of missiles and bombs coming into Israel. With all of this constant volatility, its no wonder Israel is constantly in the news about being at war – the Israeli army, bombings, fighter jets, etc…. They are eternally defending themselves… If they let down their guard for one minute there will be dire consequences for this tiny country… For us all! The symbolism alone if Israel were to somehow be brought down would bring substantial power to the Arab radical cause, which as we know, would affect America and the rest of the world as well…

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The Iron Dome

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This is a conflict centuries in the making and I’ve only touched on a few of the variables that effect the region. I certainly don’t have the answers… But I’m tellin’ ya people, I feel like joining the Israeli army right now, I am so moved by their cause… And you know it’s gotta be pretty extreme for me to have that thought, I’m a lover not a fighter… But I am truly moved by their struggle… They fight for their own country, but they’re fighting for humankind worldwide – The epic battle of good verses evil… Don’t worry, I don’t really think the next phase of life for me is to join their army… But I am compelled, nonetheless to express the severity of this tiny nation’s conflict and attempt to bring some awareness to the situation. And having visited the entire country of Israel, from Golan Heights at the northern Syrian border, to the southern beach town of Eilat overlooking Jordan and Egypt; realizing how small this country is, it really struck me what danger my friends and their country are in.

Despite all this, the Israeli Jewish people are happy, carefree and content in their lives, all while being assertive and vigilant to protect themselves and their cause. They have some of the strongest, healthiest family units I’ve encountered; maybe because they are constantly banded together as a culture. I’m amazed at how they go about their day-to-day lives and applaud their standing strong for what they believe in, knowing that danger could be knocking at their door at any given moment.

Here’s a short video detailing the issues…

Part II

Below is a statement from an Israeli-Arab boy who stood up against terrorism via Facebook after the 3 boys were kidnapped. He is pro peace, but is apparently the cousin of one of the Israeli haters. This is causing a huge uproar amongst the Arab groups and this young man is now in danger.

His name is Mohammad Zoabi – He is 16 years old

“It was the end of the school year; I was getting ready for my history Bagrut exam. I was doing some teen crap, I only expressed my mind. Something that every person can do in democratic countries like Israel. I showed sympathy for the 3 innocent Israeli’s who were kidnapped by terrorists. I got attacked, criticized and threatened by the Arabs and anti Israeli’s from all over the globe, among them was: MK Haneen Zoabi.

My mom reported the police, I had security around me and I had to move to a secured place.

I googled my name in English, I saw breaking news; Israeli Arab teen makes waves after slamming the kidnapping.

I googled my name in Hebrew: MK relative Mohammad Zoabi is a proud Zionist. Upsets his family.

I googled my name in Arabic; I wish I haven’t, I saw; Video’s on me being kidnapped and killed. Shameful pictures on me with unbelievable descriptions.

All existed only for speaking up for the Middle East’s only democracy and speaking up against terrorism. All that was short while before I was informed by reliable security sources that my life is in danger and that there’s an attempt to kidnap me to the PA Ter. and harm me.

It took me a while to realize it all; I reviewed myself and my beliefs but found nothing wrong about them. I review the way I expressed my mind; it’s not the best way but at least I’m not encouraging hate the way Haneen Zoabi does. What I have done was, speaking up my mind, defending my country and my people; I mean, if I wouldn’t be able to express my love to my country inside my country where else could I express it?

My name is Mohammad Zoabi, 16 years old Israeli Zionist Arab Muslim; Israeli – I was born in a country called Israel; same way French are born in France. Iranians in Iran. And hell yeah, I’m proud for being Israeli.

Zionist – Simply I believe in the Jewish people’s right of self-determination in their homeland; the land of Israel. Arab – My first mother language is Arabic; My Ethnic background is Arab Muslim – I believe in one God and respect all God’s, prophets and religions; Moses (Judaism), Jesus (Christianity) and Mohammad (Islam). I see myself as a human being above anything else. A human being who wants to create a better world for all. I Mohammad Zoabi announce that I’m ready to give up my life for the sake of a better future for us, our children and all the coming generations of mankind. May Israel be blessed. May peace come upon us and all our Middle Eastern neighbors. May we have a better future full of peace, love and a want to coexist. Always remember; no matter how different we are, we are eventually human beings who very soon may release the last breath and give the worlds responsibility for the new generation.

Remember; Life is too short to have enemies. May you all be blessed. Praying for a better world for all.”

Mohammad Zoabi

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Whoa, that’s some powerful stuff, especially coming from a 16 year old…

Part III

Sadly I conclude this post with the recent news (you’ve probably heard by now) that the 3 kidnapped boys were found dead earlier this week. I’ll bet Kim Kardashian’s personal life is getting more airtime in American media…. My friends tell me their whole country is in mourning, and violence and retaliation are escalating between the Israeli army and the enemy areas…

Rest In Peace you brave young souls…

Gil-Ad Shaer 16
Eyal Yifrah 19
Naftali Fraenkel 16

I share the Israeli struggle, feeling helpless with my metaphoric slingshot, knowing I have no impact on the Goliath size issues my friends and their country face. I pray for you my friends… I pray for your country… And I pray for peace.

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