It’s ironic how people go and watch extremely popular movies like The Hunger Games and, cinematic experience aside, they don’t often realize that this type of film is nothing but a metaphor for our real lives. We are pumped with entertainment from all ends, so that we don’t focus our attention on what really matters. We are so distracted (with the newest gadget release or the finals of the World Cup, for example) that much more important issues fall into the shadows in the big scheme of things.
Backpack ME is a travel blog, not a political one, and by norm we do not like to write about places we haven’t been to yet. But this time I’ve got to make an exception. I have been sitting around, watching and reading about what’s going on during the past week in Israel and Gaza. And I have been feeling quite powerless. What can I do in the distance to stop this madness? As an individual, I am truly limited. But then it occurred to me that there are thousands of people who read this blog and, if nothing else, we could all discuss the current state of affairs. It won’t change things, but information and open debate are always part of the healthy path leading towards resolving issues.
During our travels around the world we have come across plenty of Israeli travelers. Many on gap years escaping military service, others have fleed the country and settled in India, for example, because they wish to not be involved with what their country is doing. This shouldn’t have to be the fate of anyone, it is not fair. But how many Palestinians have we met? The only ones were those colleagues of mine working in Dubai, whose parents left Palestine years ago, escaping a life of oppression and looking to bring up their kids in an environment of peace and opportunity. That is not what is going on in their home-land right now. While things are unfair for both sides (we are talking about the individuals, not the governments, not the politics involved) Israelis are certainly left with more options than Palestinians.
That’s exactly what makes this so-called “war” unfair and uneven. When a country with many more resources (economic and military) attacks another with little possibility of fighting back, then this is not a war. It’s a massacre. Imagine that you, right now, are at home or at work reading this blog post, sipping a cup of tea, and all of a sudden a bomb drops on top of the building you are inside. Even worse: it doesn’t kill you, but it kills every one around you. Every one you have ever loved, destroying your home, your shelter or any sense of security you could have had. And all you did was sit around reading a blog… Imagine for a second that all of this happened to you during Christmas Eve, Thanks-Giving or any other special day… the holy month of Ramadan is taking place right now for Muslims and this just adds a whole new layer of cruelty to the situation.
Well, that’s the majority of Palestinians for you all. They want nothing but to live a regular life, have a home, safety, raise a family and look forward to better days. And so do Israelis, of course. Or anyone else in a conflict or non conflict zone in any corner of the world.
This being a travel blog, I refer to Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” TV show shot in Israel, Gaza and The West Bank. This is not the news. They just show life as it is on that side of the world (please note this video has been edited by the person who posted it to Youtube, focusing on the parts shot in Gaza and The West Bank. This was the only version I found online with the possibility of embedding it here. You may want to watch the entire episode elsewhere.)
We could be talking politics and religion all day in here but, for me, nothing justifies blind hatred. Especially when, at the end of the day, those really dealing the cards care about money and power. It’s more about the greed than it is about beliefs. But, in the meantime, it saddens me to see such young people so totally desensitized to the point of tweeting about death and extermination as if commenting on the latest hair style of Justin Bieber.
I don’t believe in God, and I generally dislike religion. And it baffles me that religious people involved in this conflict will use terms such as “holy war” or “god will be on our side…” There is nothing holy about a war. For either side. There is nothing holy about hatred or murder. There is nothing holy in any of what’s going on.
No matter what side you choose to support in this conflict, based on historical reasons, media brain-washing, or just because your country generally supports either Israel or Palestine, there are certain types of behaviors that shouldn’t be justified. How can we live in a world where we have all become so desensitized? Particularly those in the front row?!
I have come to observe something traveling and meeting people all over the place. More often than not, we take for granted the place we were born in and the personal rights that this may involve. People from western countries, for instance, often brag about how they get visa on arrival in so many parts of the world. Others, that were less lucky, are used to spending time and money arranging visas.
The place you were born in is RANDOM.
You could have been born anywhere in the world,
even somewhere you truly despise right now!
Rich or poor. Healthy or unhealthy. Privileged or not. In the heart of a religious family or not. These are things YOU have not worked towards, you have not earned any of them (neither good, nor bad). It’s coincidence, it’s life. That is why we should never feel that something is our right just because we were born in a certain place. We are not entitled to anything just because we happened to be born in a certain place. Because we could have been born anywhere else in the world. So try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and, only then, after you’ve tried to look at both sides of the story, make your own conclusions.
A few years ago, when we were living in Dubai, a friend of ours came over to our house and brought along a friend who was in town. We were discussing politics and briefly talking about the war in Iraq. In one of his unfortunate comments, this fellow mentioned that “yes, more Iraqi people have died as compared to US troops, but it’s not like they’re the same”. Basically, his message meant that the lives of people in Iraq did not have the same value as the lives of USA soldiers. Things heated up quickly, but it was impossible to make him understand that all lives, no matter the background, race, beliefs or geographical location, are exactly the same. I think it’s this kind of mindset that makes conflicts such as the current one between Israel and Palestine “impossible” to resolve.
It is our duty to look back and learn from History. Have we not learnt any lessons from the Holocaust in Europe or the Apartheid in South Africa? How can our memories be that short?
Now you may be wondering: “What can I do as an individual, how can I contribute towards peace?” Firstly, get informed and have your own opinion in the matter. Don’t let the “official” opinion of your country drive your personal views. Get online and talk about the conflict. Use your social media profiles to express a desire for peace. We have more resources in our hands than we’ve ever had before. Let’s use them! Participate in online forums and talk with people who are in Israel and Palestine right now. You may want to have a look at Reddit Israel and Reddit Palestine, which I am personally finding very interesting lately. Join protests in your city even. Specially if the government of your country supports something you are not in agreement with – silence is consent, let’s make our voices heard within our own capabilities.
I would like to travel to Israel one day. It is a place with an extremely interesting history and I know I wouldn’t spend a dull moment in there. But I don’t predict this will happen any time soon. I don’t like the idea of spending money there, fueling the economy of a country that commits such atrocities year after year, and keeps on getting away with it.
Have you traveled to Israel or Palestine?
Have you ever thought of going there?
Let us know what’s on your mind!