Israel vs. Palestine

Israel vs Palestine by Yakirah Mitchel - Photo by Elise Anstey

Being a young Jewish girl today, it is often assumed I am a Zionist. My grandparents are Zionists, a lot of my friends are, and my religion as a whole is supposed to be, right? In today’s world, almost every issue and discussion is “Us vs. Them.” I am surrounded by my peers shouting “Free Palestine!” or “ Support Israel!” Where do I fit in?

I am in love with the culture of my faith. I have a sense of safety and home inside my synagogue, and when I was in Israel I felt closer to both G-d and myself than I ever had before. I love Israel. I love the food, the language, the rich history, the beautiful land, and the old buildings.

I have Israeli friends who are Jewish, Christian, and Muslim who all support Israel (which is expected, because they live and grew up there). In America, I have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and many other religions, as well as Palestinian. Inevitably, they argue.

I try to take a step back in the arguments, often finding myself trying to seek a middle ground among my friends and the questions they ask. Two-state solution? Who gets the Gaza Strip? Who was there first?

I’m not sure of my opinion on these issues, although I wish I could be. My elders cheered when Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital, and my friends said “Finally, he did something right.” I stayed silent, knowing only one thing for sure: that this will bring the Middle East farther from peace rather than closer to it.

As a teenager, social media consumes my life, as it does the lives of all of my friends and teenagers around the world. Of course, social media is a great tool to communicate and stay up to date on what’s going on. However, it can be used negatively, too. For example, it was heartbreaking that when one of my American friends posted a picture of us with our Israeli friend on Instagram for her birthday, and wrote “Happy birthday my love” in Hebrew, our Palestinian American friend commented “#FREEPALESTINE.”

Of course he is entitled to believe that, and I can understand why he does. However, he brought it into our personal friendships when nothing pro-Israel was even written. To make it worse, some of our Israeli guy friends commented back, yelling at him, “What is Palestine?” or “Palestine is not real, it’s called Israel, look at a map!” just to get him mad. Then, I stay out of it, trying to get them to stop arguing, and then I look like the bad guy because I won’t pick a side.

I feel sad and disappointed when I hear the stories of young Palestinian children dying at the hands of Israeli soldiers, or young Israeli children dying at the hands of Hamas, but how am I supposed to feel when it results in people on the Internet angrily insulting this land that is supposed to be my people’s promised land? That was supposed to be given to us by G-d?

Every day of my life I hear about Israel. It is written in our holy book, the Torah. We have holidays honoring our hardships in getting to Israel. If it is true that we escaped slavery in Egypt just to walk for 40 years to Israel, of course I think my people deserve it.

But Jews are not the only people that Israel is promised to. It is the holy land for Muslims and Christians, too. If it were up to me, I would say that we should all just share the land. This war is not Islam vs. Judaism, because they already live side by side in Israel. This war is Israel vs. Palestine.

I truly wish that all of the fighting would stop, and the border would come down, and we could all be as one. The name does not matter to me as much as the land and violence does. I don’t care if half is Palestine, half is Israel. It just saddens me to see this still going on after so many years. I have little hope that it will end anytime soon.

Peace will not come by our guns or our weapons or the nasty words that we let slip through our fingers to be blasted online, or the hateful remarks spoken in the hallways; but instead, kind words of unity, love, solidarity, conversation, and real action will bring us closer.

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Yakirah Mitchel is a sophomore at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is passionate about activism, political involvement, intersectionality, and all social justice. When she's not working on the Abdul El-Sayed gubernatorial campaign, she enjoys being with friends, listening to music, and reading the news.
Accompanying photo by Elise Anstey