My story of identity has many layers.
One of them is the Israeli layer in me.
Every time the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict erupts into an intifada, or a full blown war - I am met with both the need and the difficulty to defend my right to exist. To defend my identity of being Israeli when some extremists call Israel 'Israel' because they don't want to acknowledge its existence. They don't want to acknowledge my existence. And I can say the same about Israeli right wing extremists and settlers that claim the land should only be Israel and for Israelis alone - that kind of thinking erases the Palestinians' right to exist.
Truth is - I can say a lot of things about this conflict. I can bring in my knowledge of history, my first hand experiences from the region, my experiences seeing violence over this long conflict, articles and talking points that can shed a light on the complexity, my story of refusing to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (a mandatory service in Israel) for being a conscientious objector... Sure, I can say a lot on this topic.
But nothing I'll say will change this seesaw-dance of pride and shame that I have with my own Israeli identity. When Israel strives and achieves extraordinary achievement in the world, like in tech or being first to offer humanitarian aid to countries in need - I am very proud to be Israeli. And when Israel mistreats Palestinians and kills innocent people in Gaza and the Palestinian territories - I am deeply ashamed.
Sure, I am tempted to explain the narrative I was raised on - that Israel is defending itself against HAMAS - a terror organization that controls Gaza and its people, and sometimes innocent lives are lost in war... but I will not explain that. Because it doesn't justify the loss of lives. It doesn't justify living in fear on both sides. It doesn't justify people having to defend their rights to exist. To have a home. And it doesn't change the shame I feel for the failure of this powerful country to correct this wrong and to be a symbol of hope and equality to ALL its inhabitants. With power comes responsibility, and the power dynamics in the region are clear and have been for quite a while.
In the 1990s, when Rabin was the prime minister of Israel, there was a great sense of hope in the country. There was a sense of hope for a better future, for the long awaited peace agreement, for co-existence the way so many Israelis and Palestinians alike crave for. When Rabin was assassinated by a right wing extremist who wanted to kill the peace process - that hope started fading away and over the last two decades it has been shrinking and shrinking.
Now - hope is barely hanging on a thread.
To my US friends who have joined the dense, emotional, difficult conversation about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: welcome! There is a lot to learn about this. A lot. LISTEN, learn, and please be there for your Israeli and Palestinian friends. Years long traumas run through our identities and every siren we hear - is a trigger, every firework - a bombing, and every alarm - a reminder of this ongoing war on our homes.
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman