Israel offers coexistence

The highly politicized country is also home to people living in harmony.

by Shira Frishman, University alumna

Upon graduating from the University of Minnesota, I made the decision to move to Israel. The reactions to this choice were varied. Some thought I was crazy, others admirable. Many people would look at me with a quizzical expression on their faces. “Isn’t it like a war zone?” After having spent much time here as a tourist, student and now as a resident, I have learned a lot about Israel. Although being a country that is in many ways foreign, Israel shares several values with the U.S., like respect, tolerance and appreciation of diversity.

I live on the West Bank. One of the fascinating places in this area is a grocery store called Rami Levi. The scene that I encountered upon my first visit to this store was very different from that which is portrayed in the media. Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Muslims were shopping, working and coexisting together. The bakery and pizza shops were filled with Arab and Israeli families living and enjoying life. In the aisles of Rami Levi, one could forget that in the newspapers, there
exists an Arab-Israeli conflict.

One of the incredible privileges that I have had during my time in Israel has been an internship at a center for elderly people with Alzheimer’s. Many of our members are Jewish people who originated from Arabic-speaking countries and who often speak Arabic. When we close, vans arrive to take these people back to their homes — vans that are driven by Arab Israelis who take exceptional care of these disease-stricken Jews. The Jews who do speak Arabic converse affably with their drivers. Although I do not understand Arabic, the tone of the conversations and the smiles on their faces do not indicate conflict.

Every time I walk through the streets of Jerusalem, travel on buses or order coffee, I am truly amazed by this country, where multitudes of languages, customs and ideas abound. In this outstanding democracy, where everyone has a voice and an equal chance, I am so thankful that in the Middle East there exists a land in which human rights are truly upheld.

In the coming weeks, many campuses across the world will hold Israeli Apartheid Week, in which they will try to portray Israel as a state that is analogous to the apartheid in South Africa. They will likely malign Israel, and they will compare the country to a system of governance in which one race was more valuable than another. I believe that many of the people who will be protesting have never been to Israel. They do not know the Israel that I know. Israeli Apartheid Week is not a solution to the conflict. The reality is that actual coexistence is occurring in Israel. It is about time that this truth is recognized.