February 21, 2010
Sleeping Over in the West Bank -By Rabbi Hyim Shafner
Two weeks ago I traveled with 40 Rabbis, Rabbinical students and educators to Bethlehem, and spent two days talking with Arabs in the West Bank who have committed themselves to solving the looming problems of the Israeli Palestinian conflict peacefully. I slept overnight in the very nice home of a Christian family in Bethlehem. None of us visitors were Israeli citizens since they are not allowed in Bethlehem which is part of Area A, the Oslo section of the West Bank that is solely under PA control.
I., as many Anglo Jews and perhaps Israeli Jews, always imagined that to enter the West Bank was to take one’s life in one’s hands; that all West Bank citizens want most of all to kill Jews. Hearing Arabic or seeing it would sometimes make me afraid.
While there is usually some truth in stereotypes, which is how they get to be stereotypes, it is also true that there are real people on the other side of the wall, Christians and Muslims, who do not fit the stereotype. Though the situation did not become any clearer while I was there, and even less so after I returned to discuss my findings and experiences with Israelis I know, I did become more convinced that peace can only happen if real individuals are in touch with, and experience as people, other real human beings on the other side of each.
The following video is a 5 minute account of some of my experiences in Bethlehem.