An amazing blog post by Dr. Sarina Chen at the Jerusalem Post encapsulates the central problem with how many people–and many college students–talk about Israel. Some, particularly those who have been on Birthright, see Israel as a spiritual wonderland where everything is perfect and the state is infallible. Others, conversely, view Israel solely through the lens of the conflict with the Palestinians and don’t realize or understand that it’s a country with strong points, struggles and flaws. As Chen writes about her students at Northeastern University:
I found out that these two opposite attitudes actually have something in common- both of them refuse to see Israel as a place of real living people: Individuals with loves and hates, with families and jobs, with dreams and disappointments. They ignore the fact that Israel deals with many internal social and economic problems, the fact that Israel is a multi-cultural country. …
It seems that both of the mentioned groups do not really understand that Israel is not only a political issue, or an exotic Jewish paradise. It is not a chess table where you can easily define the “black” and the “white.” Israel is a place where real people live their life in a highly complex situation.
Very, very well said, Dr. Chen. Here’s to bringing more nuance and complexity into the conversation about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.