Among all the countless tragedies and losses of this current war is the blow that has been dealt to the already fragile relationships between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Even in the best of times, suspicion and distrust have been the default sentiments among most Israeli citizens about their “other” counterparts. And it is against this background that I have, for years, been trying to present a more open-hearted alternative.
Crossing the cultural divide and finding a place in the lives of Palestinians, Druze and Bedouins living in Israel has been one of the most important and transformative efforts of my life – that makes me feel like there is some reason why I am living in this problematic country, instead of in the comfort of the United States.
From these acquaintances and friendships, I have come to understand and appreciate how genuinely connected these people are to this place – whose history and culture – particularly their culinary traditions, which stand out most to me – are rooted in this land. This is where I find our common roots – because as foreign and religiously unaffiliated as I am, I do feel a tremendous spiritual connection with this land that I can only explain as originating somewhere deep in my genetic makeup.
This common connection to the land, in fact, is what makes me feel, for example, that my Palestinian friend Balkees and I are like sisters – that our roots are intertwined somewhere deep in ancient history.
The grapes, wheat and olives of this land grow out of earth that has been steeped in blood. Yet for every pursuer of war, I am convinced that there are a hundred that would embrace peace with both hands if it was offered to them – no matter what side of the divide. I pray that the day will soon come that that will happen.