Widgets Magazine


Winter in Israel, Part III: The Challenge of Pluralism

This is the third in a series of three articles written by Aly Cash 16, Jaih Hunter-Hill 15 and Amrita Rao 15 reflecting on their experience traveling to Israel over winter break on a campus leaders mission sponsored by The David Project.

In the first two parts of this series, we talked about some issues concerning Israel that are important but little discussed. We close by exploring the issue that, although packaged in various ways, is the most prominent problem concerning Israel today: the relationship between Israel and its neighbors.

Israel commonly receives criticism for its fences and closed borders, which are sometimes even compared to the Berlin Wall. However, to many living in Israel these barriers and border checkpoints exist as a necessity for Israeli security. It is no secret that these checkpoints are burdensome for Arab Israelis and Palestinians who desire to cross the border, but when considering that there are still planned terrorist attacks caught at these checkpoints, it is clear that they do hold a security purpose.

Critics cite the low number of terrorist attacks that do take place as proof of excessive paranoia and repressiveness in Israeli security measures, but in reality it actually speaks volumes to the security system’s effectiveness. Israel developed this tight security system after the Second Intifada, which ended in 2006 after thousands of casualties. These checkpoints are physical embodiments of Israelis’ lasting fear and paranoia, and they are the manifestation of the victimization of the Palestinian people due to the actions of a few. We encourage further investigation into the purpose and possible solutions to the checkpoints.

Amjhed, a Jordanian doctor in the residency program at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, lives in the West Bank and travels through a checkpoint on his way to and from work every day. According to him, the process takes about an hour and a half. He considers it similar to going through airport security—something that people get used to and willingly endure for their own safety.

Amjhed considers it an honor to work at Hadassah, not only because of its international prestige but also because of its moral philosophy of non-discrimination.

When we walked into Hadassah, the diversity of people within the hospital—of both patients and professionals—was striking. We saw an Orthodox Jewish man with his black hat and pe’ot (sidelocks) sharing an elevator with a Muslim woman in hijab. Barbara Sofer, Hadassah’s director of communications, told us this juxtaposition reflected the essence of Hadassah’s principles. Hadassah refuses to tolerate discrimination. Jewish and non-Jewish doctors treat Jewish and non-Jewish patients alike.

The ultimate test of this ideology came during the Second Intifada, when people affected by the violence were flown in from all over Israel for treatment at Hadassah. Doctors opened ambulances to find their children lying in the gurneys and nurses combed through wards for their family members. In Barbara’s words, at that moment everyone—Jewish, Muslim or Christian—could have exerted the right to say no, but they understood that as medical professionals they served people, not an ideology.

But even Hadassah could not escape the hatred present in the region at that time. The synagogue within the hospital has a collection of stunning stained glass windows by Marc Chagall depicting the 12 tribes of Israel. The violence during the Six Day War destroyed three of these windows. Chagall reportedly told the hospital, “You take care of fixing the people, I’ll take care of fixing the windows.” That violence is not alien to the Israelis and Palestinians of today.

These places and experiences merely sample the varied itinerary of our trip. The people we heard from came from all sorts of backgrounds in relation to Israel and gave us an incredibly assorted set of perspectives to reframe our thinking about the country. The 33 of us also represented a wide spectrum of views on Israel based on our individual backgrounds, some of us vocally pro-Palestinian and others veteran Israel advocates. But after hearing the truths of these individuals, we as a group now share a new understanding that to be pro-Palestinian, you also have to be pro-Israeli and vice versa. Until mutual respect between the two communities and their advocates becomes the status quo, progress towards peace and a lasting solution will remain in a frustrating deadlock.

What we bring back from this trip to Stanford’s campus: For everyone else with an opinion on Israel, we challenge you to question the completeness of the perspectives that inform your own viewpoints on Israel. It’s easy to sit in America and hear all the media buzz about human rights violations and decide that Israel is the bad guy. It’s also easy to go on one of the many Jewish, pro-Israeli trips that present a manicured view of the country and form the opposite viewpoint. Neither of these situations affords you enough knowledge to form an informed opinion.

In order to form a fully informed opinion, you must go out of your way to look beyond what you think you know. You must practice compassionate listening for those with whom you’re sure you will disagree, such as when David Project took us to hear from the prominent Arab-Israeli Forsan Hussein.

So the next time you’re sitting in Arrillaga watching a CNN report on Kerry’s negotiations in Israel or walking through White Plaza past a demonstration accusing Israel of being an apartheid state, make sure you remember the people behind the place. Be aware of your biases and remember that there are limitations to what you can know. Don’t mistake the clarity of the one cell you’ve analyzed through the lens of your microscope for the reality that affects millions of real people living across the body of Israel and Palestine.

Contact Aly Cash, Jaih Hunter-Hill and Amrita Rao at acash@stanford.edu, jahh15@stanford.edu and arao15@stanford.edu.

  • mxm123

    Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty. Which is it. – Part 3

    Amjhed, a Jordanian doctor – “According to him, the process takes about an hour and a half. He considers it similar to going through airport security—something that people get used to and willingly endure for their own safety.”

    Ok. Cool. 45 minutes each way. Sure. What a wonderful picture of Arabs from the West Bank being put thru a minor inconvenience. But wait. Heres how an Israeli Member of Parliament described the checkpoints.


    “Even if I were to upload a photo of the freezing, filthy enclosure at the Qalandiyah checkpoint that I passed through yesterday on my way back from Ramallah, you wouldn’t be able to see, and certainly wouldn’t be able to feel, the humiliation and insult that I felt – and that the Palestinians with permits, who are forced to pass here day after day, feel,” she wrote.

    Heres how the Washington Post described an encounter at an Israeli checkpoint

    “At the same time, Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of abuse by Israeli troops against Palestinians at roadblocks: beatings, shootings, harassment, humiliation and life-threatening delays. Last year, a female Israeli soldier assigned to a Gaza Strip checkpoint was convicted of forcing a Palestinian woman at gunpoint to drink a bottle of cleaning fluid, according to court records. This month, soldiers at the Beit Iba checkpoint, not far from the Hawara checkpoint, ordered a Palestinian to open his violin case and play for them while the lines behind him grew.”

    Ok they made him play a violin. Well read on….

    “Suddenly, the camera jerked toward the sergeant. He bashed the Palestinian man in the face with his fist. The man’s hysterical wife and two weeping children tried to squeeze between him and the sergeant. The soldier shoved the Palestinian into a hut as the army cameraman followed close behind.

    The man’s toddler son clung to his father’s shirttail until soldiers brushed him away like a fly. The soldier flipped a blanket over the window of the hut, and the camera’s audio picked up the Palestinian’s muffled cries as the soldier punched him in the stomach.

    “For them, you see, they don’t have a problem getting beaten up,” the sergeant explained before the video camera a short time later. “It’s the humiliation in front of all the people, the wife and children. I try to do it so they don’t see me, so it’s not in front of the people.””

    Our Stanford “free riders” urge us to look beyond what we think we know. Did they look beyond the one sided propaganda presented to them ? Or were they thinking of the free lunch and yes free dinner that evening !!!

    Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty ?

  • mxm123

    Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty. Which is it. – Part 4

    “but when considering that there are still planned terrorist attacks caught at these checkpoints, it is clear that they do hold a security purpose.”

    Sure. I would have no problem with a wall. That is if its built on my property. Our Stanford “free riders” omit to ask a simple question. Is that wall built on Israeli land or Palestinian land ?. I guess that would be an inconvenient question to ask your host, especially after a nice free breakfast and the free lunch and free dinner to follow.

    And of course not a word in a three part article about Israeli settlements that snake thru Palestinian lands. Think about it. John Kerry and the entire world is trying to get Israel to stop its settlement policy. But our “look beyond” Stanford “free riders” have not a single alphabet alluding to such !!!

    “We encourage further investigation into the purpose and possible solutions to the checkpoints.”

    Bingo. Our Stanford “free riders” have a solution. They’re not there to investigate further or ask inconvenient questions. That’s your problem.

    “go out of your way to look beyond what you think you know”. Question. Did they look beyond their breakfast (or lunch or dinner) table !!!

    Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty ?

  • mxm123

    Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty. Which is it. – Part 5

    The Stanford Hillel has promoted this “balanced narrative” on Facebook. They state it even presents the Palestinian perspective. Just think an entire three part “Palestinian Perspective” without the word “Occupation” !!!

    “Continue following Aly, Jaih and Ami on their trip discovering Israel from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives.”


    However I must congratulate the Stanford Hillel (if they were involved) and other groups on this most excellent series. Finding “gentile” students to present such a “neutral” perspective must have taken some planning and hard work. The David Project even has an entire document on picking such “objective” students.


    “98. American Jewish organizations have in the past taken student influencers to Israel. With little
    follow-up though and without the engagement of pro-Israel students on campus, these efforts
    are likely to bear little fruit. Taking campus influencers identified by pro-Israel student
    leaders to Israel on trips designed and implemented by student leaders themselves (with
    professional support) and tied to existing campus efforts is a potentially effective and
    important tool The David Project will be exploring.”

    “99. When engaging influencers, student leaders should do research and be realistic about how far
    toward Israel they are likely to be moved….”

    Thats correct folks. When you apply for your “free ride” to Israel, make sure you present yourself as someone who is “likely to be moved” !!! And make sure the “moved” is in the right direction. They can’t waste money on people who start asking inconvenient questions !!!

  • Curious man

    Are you going to share with us this video that you are talking about?
    Curious if the soldiers spread wings, grew horns and flew towards the burning sun at the end..

    And mxm, you are such a saint. I think I will name all my kids after you so they will also have the chance of being better than all the rest and not “free riders”..

  • curious man

    Also, I am saddened that you missed the point of the article.
    We must stop putting any side to blame and try to push towards bringing these two societies closer together. We both know that for every argument for the conflict (or occupation or whatever you want to call it) the other side has an answer and rationalization. nothing will ever end and there will never be peace if we continue with this narrative, Only when Israelis and Palestinians learn to know each other more closely, will peace overcome the fear and mutual hatred.
    Don’t be an advocate for hatred, try finding a better more positive cause to bring these people closer and help end this miserable conflict once and for all

  • Hypocricy at its Finest

    The idea that someone who is Jewish (as only one of the three authors are) or involved cannot attempt to write a neutral perspective is incredibly closed minded (to put it kindly).

    Also, in response to your assertion that an article in the Daily should be objective? Three words: Kristian Davis Bailey. If this guy was the only one who had a forum, you would think that this complex issue was as simple and one sided as the Holocaust (or in his words, as South Africa pre-1990s). I suspect you have no problem with his articles posted regularly in the Daily, so to malign alternate perspectives (and more productive rather than destructive, I might add) as unworthy for print is simple hypocrisy

  • Get off the soapbox

    Kristian Davis Bailey, is that you?

  • mxm123

    A “neutral perspective” or “alternate perspective” that does not once mention Israeli settlements. A deliberate and active ongoing Israeli govt. policy condemned worldwide. That’s would’ve been like writing a “neutral” perspective on South Africa in the 1960’s without once mentioning apartheid. Asking for the truth is not destructive.

    The authors are welcome to describe the Potemkin village constructed by their hosts. But then one needs to answer the question. Intellectual Dishonesty, Intellectual Laziness or Intellectual Honesty ?

  • mxm123

    Why. Are u updating my Hillel membership card ? Or my Stand With Us dossier ?

  • mxm123

    Didi i miss the point of the article Or did i question the accuracy of the article. Example. What point did i miss, when i point out in my earlier posts that our “free riders” redefined Pinkwashing ? The truth ?

  • mxm123

    Is pointing out fiction sinful ?

  • Sour grapes

    ‘Pinkwashing’– by that you mean Israeli gay rights better than those of America, which people like you spin around because you cannot believe that there can be any good element of Israel or Israeli society

  • mxm123

    As pointed out. Thats not the definition of Pinkwashing. If you’re so concerned about Israel’s image, why don’t u and our “free riders” address it in a more honest manner. Why resort to deception ?

  • what?

    I actually found this article pretty enlighteneing…i feel like this mxm guy might be looking for things to criticize without actually intaking some of the complexities this article brings up…