It is important to challenge what you believe, so that you know why you believe it. That’s why I decided to backpack around Jordan, the West Bank and Israel this past summer. I have been to refugee camps and through checkpoints. I have experienced the terror that accompanies a rocket attack, and the heartbreak that comes from talking to a Holocaust survivor.
As cliché as it may be, children are our future. What we teach upcoming generations will determine how they see the world and what policies future leaders will enact. During my time in the West Bank and Jordan, I made it a point to ask people what they really thought about Israel. I was particularly interested in hearing what the younger generations’ perspective.
The general attitude toward Israel was overwhelmingly hostile. One older Palestinian man from Bethlehem said we have had our fight, we need to move on. A Jordanian man who tried to convince me to stay in Jordan and convert to Islam told me that Israel has no place in the Middle East.
When I was in the West Bank and Jordan, it seemed like Israel did not exist. Maps would show Israel and Jordan as both being part of Palestine. There was an attempt to ignore the reality that Israel is real. The only recognition of a Jewish presence in the region was hostility.
The most horrifying experience I had this summer was talking to a young Palestinian girl in Ramallah. She was doing some math problems, and I asked what they were about. One of them was to the effect of “If a freedom fighter kills X amount of Jews, how many are left?” I had heard about this stuff from articles and talking points, but it is so completely and totally shocking to see something like this in real life. How can you make peace when hatred is treated with such banality? How will future generations of Palestinians accept a two-state solution?
Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab countries refuse to teach about the Holocaust. Ignoring Israel’s existence and teaching children hatred will never result in peace. I recently had a conversation with an Arab student who accidentally walked into a pro-Israel event on campus, and we both agreed that education in the Arab world has a huge part in exacerbating and prolonging the conflict. If Arab education does not acknowledge the tragedies that have been inflicted upon the Jewish people during the 20th century and beyond, it is obviously going to be difficult for the average citizen to recognize why Israel has a need to exist.
Golda Meir said “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” This trip made me highly skeptical of the chance for peace between Israel and the Palestinians in my lifetime. As long as Palestinian, Jordanian and Arab societies educate their children to hate Israel, then the chances for peace will remain slim.
Andy Wallin is a junior in the School of International Service.