Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Of Two Minds

Map showing the Gaza Strip (in tan).

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 12 April 2005.

Part of me just has to admire people who are 100% sure they are right about something. That certainty, that conviction, must stem from an incredibly strong will. Maybe because it is easy for me to see more than one side of any issue, my views are rarely that entrenched. That can make for hours of soul-searching on my part. A nerve-wracking, but perhaps also valuable, exercise.

In considering whether I wanted to write about the disengagement from Gaza, a factor weighing against doing so was my lack of a firm stand on what I believe should be done. Every article I have read, every radio and television interview, every e-mail or conversation on the subject has featured people who seem to be completely convinced that Israel should - or shouldn't - withdraw from the Gaza Strip. No one is indecisive, no one has the least hesitation in stating their opintion and listing numerous reasons why they are right.

dis * en * gage * ment: withdrawal from a stated policy, previous involvement or position; (disengaging action: a voluntary tactical withdrawal of troops in a critical situation; sometimes a euphemism for retreat).

This is a very popular interpretation of Sharon's disengagement plan. I have read or heard many, many arguments in favor of this definition. I agree that the removal of settlements appears to be rewarding terrorism. I can understand the pain of the settlers who can't bear to imagine the enemy who has stalked them for the last 20+ years moving into their homes and taking advantage of all the fruits of their labors. It seems reasonable to suppose that the terrorists who move in to occupy what were once Jewish settlements will feel a renewed determination to destroy and take over the entire land of Israel.

dis * en * gage * ment: freedom from obligation, occupation, etc.; ease; leisure.

On the other hand, there are a great number of people who feel that too much money is spent providing security for a very small number of Israeli citizens who, if you look at a map, seem to be living, not in Israel, but in an enemy country. The tan area shown in the map above is controlled by - and is part of - the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. Millions of sheckels are spent to maintain an army presence there; money that is needed to deal with problems and issues Israel, like any other modern democracy, faces. Then, of course, there is the human cost. How many soldiers have lost their lives in Gaza, protecting the settlers who live there? I don't know the exact number, but I do know the answer: too many. And every time another soldier is killed, people ask, "What are we doing there?"

What is the right thing to do? I still don't know. In the end, it really doesn't matter what I think; Israel either will or won't withdraw from the territories. And truthfully, the withdrawal (or lack thereof) won't have an immediate impact on my everyday life. I don't live in Gush Katif; I also don't have a son who might, one day, be ordered by the army to serve there.

And so I go on with my life, worrying and debating over the things I can control: finding an orthodontist for my twelve-year-old, or helping my seven-year-old learn the multiplication table. Because while obviously the future of my country is also our future, I have smaller, yet more immediate, things on my mind. I will leave the protests, demonstrations, and decisions to those who feel certain they know what is best. Only time will show who is right.

(c) Amy Samin

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