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A Month-and-a-Half in Israel and Palestine

A Rubber Bullet to the Head

by DIEGO FILIU

Palestine, Israel. One of the longest conflicts in History. One of the most mediatized ones as well. And surely one of the most complex to solve.

This conflict, I had studied it, even before being admitted to a Middle-East-focused BA degree at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and Columbia University. But this summer, I decided to go on the ground to better understand it, to live closer to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

My stay spanned from June the 21th to August the 5th. I quickly understand that, in Palestine but also in Israel, the conflict is everywhere. And even more so in these times of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza strip. This new chapter of a confrontation that has gone on for several generations is certainly not the last. It is tragic, like all wars are. It affects civilians first, like all “modern” wars.

I hence have no choice: I have to understand, to sense this conflict, beyond academics. I aspire to be more conscious of the sufferings, the hatreds and the hopes of each party.

The war, everywhere

The war, I repeat it, is everywhere. Even in “peace” time, as I landed in Israel before the beginning of the operation Protective Edge. Even on welcome signs, the military jets of Tsahal stand next to childish smiles.

Even on Tel Aviv’s seaside. The city first appears to me as a bubble, outside of  time. And then, on the shore, pops up a museum in the honor of the Irgun, the most extreme of all Zionist organizations, which authored among others the 1946 bombing against the King David hotel. And, as soon as one goes off the beach, Tel Aviv is full of young people in uniform, Uzis on their shoulders, carelessly fiddling with their phones with one hand while holding their gun’s loader with the other. War, again and always.

Israel integrated war to its daily life. Notwithstanding, the country has other passions –such as football. And, even when it is Iran that plays, spectators rush to the giant beach screens. A surrealistic scene, in which a crowd with kippa stares at the players of a country considered by Israel as an “existential threat”.

This strikes me fairly early; Israel and Palestine are countries of fragments. The atmosphere can change altogether, in a few seconds. Depending on the street, the part of the city you are in, the town itself, the moment of the day, and even the day of the week.

This is even truer in Acre, “Akka” in Arabic and “Akko” in Hebrew. Its old town is a Palestinian stronghold in the north of Israel. There, I encountered a bunch of happy Arab  oldies, seated in circle around a bottle of whisky,...

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