Op Ed

Tina Whitehead




Op Ed
Having recently read Debby Titlebaum Neuman’s op ed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette [Nov 23], I feel like I should respond. I, too, am in Jerusalem, but my life bears no similarity to the Jerusalem she refers to. How can people who live in the same land have two such opposite experiences of life here? The answer is simple: the two realities never meet. And this is the goal. How can people humanize each other if they never interact with each other? How can people empathize with the other’s story if that story is only told through a media which distorts and manipulates the truth?
How can Israelis understand the daily horror and tragedy of the people of Gaza when all they are allowed to hear is that these people are somewhat sub-human, terrorists who only want the destruction of Israel? Humanity exists on both sides of the wall that divides Israel from Gaza and from the West Bank. Families with dreams and hopes for their children exist on both sides of the wall. People who want peace, justice and basic human freedoms exist on both sides of the wall. If these people could just meet and share their stories and their hopes, then perhaps a real peace could begin.
She made the statement: “I don't want to hear all the ignorant responses about occupation, settlements and the mistreatment of the Palestinian people…”

 I have just spent the last few weeks traveling with groups from the U.S. and hearing story after story of “occupation, settlements and the mistreatment of the Palestinian people.” But not just hearing the stories, seeing the villages that are threatened with demolition, the house in East Jerusalem that has just been demolished for the 6th time, listening to people in the refugee camps in Bethlehem who live every night with incursions of the Israeli army and the fear that tonight it will be their sons who are taken off to prison with no charges filed.   Or the villagers who need protection from the violence of local settlers who try to prevent them from harvesting olives from their own groves. And then what about the thousands of Palestinians who must line up for hours every morning at the checkpoints in Ramallah and Bethlehem hoping for an opportunity to go to Jerusalem to school or to work. Or the wives that we talked to who are not allowed to live with their families because of permit restrictions. One wife is only allowed to “visit” her husband on weekends because he lives in the West Bank and she in Jerusalem, just 6 miles away. Or the Jerusalem woman whose husband, a cardiologist, lives in Gaza and they are only allowed to see each other at Christmas and Easter because that is the only time he can get a permit to leave Gaza?
Perhaps instead of “not wanting to hear” these stories, it would be more beneficial to listen, to see, to expose oneself to the other reality. Perhaps then there would be some understanding. And she would be surprised that she wouldn’t find the hatred that she talks about. She would find a people who are among the most hospitable I’ve ever met, a people who just want to get on with their lives and, in many cases, would welcome her as a friend.
At least, that is my experience of this land and I invite you to make it yours.
Tina Whitehead
Jerusalem / Oakmont, PA


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