Thursday, May 30, 2013

Israel Journal III: The West Bank

Photograph of West Bank by Hallie Cohen
From the top of Gilboa Mountain, you can look onto a village in the West Bank. You can see a mosque and hear the calls to prayer. There is an observation post with a plaque commemorating the death of one of the residents of Kibbutz Meirav in a terrorist attack. Yet peering into the center of the town, it’s almost impossible to absorb the political and geographical reality that lies before you. Travelling a few more kilometers down the mountain you peer over a barbed wire fence directly into Jordan. The Golan Heights from which Syrians streamed during the Yom Kippur war appears like simply any ridge that one might view, though the memorial to the battle at the Valley of Tears (with its Syrian and Israeli tanks facing off like an arguing couple) does have the haunted quality of our own Civil War battlefields. You remark on how verdant it is and how the color has changed from green to yellow with the onset of summer. The routines of life continue on and the fact that war is raging in the environs of Damascus only fifty miles away, a war whose outcome will have enormous implications for a tiny country, a David facing a geopolitical goliath, seems devoid of any reality on a typical afternoon as the heat brings life to a stand still. Is that where the Intifada raged? Is  that the spot where a small band of Israeli tanks turned back an army? Israel literally means “he who argues with god" and it can also be defined as the name of a country which is a question a logical positive might ask, “Is Real?” But what is real and what isn’t? One thing is certain. Israel is a tiny country which looms large in a our minds and not only because it's the Holy Land for three great religions, but because after centuries of Roman, Ottoman and British rule, it's become the symbolic and literal epicenter of modern realpolitik.

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