This article first appeared at Waging Nonviolence. A version later appeared alongside a piece by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish in NOW Magazine under the title "Pressing for Peace".
I spent Thursday afternoon in Ashkelon, Israel, just a few kilometers from the border with Gaza. It’s a city that has lived under the threat of rocket attacks for many years. That day, by 4 p.m. the streets were empty. The mall was closed, and the few people I did see were glued to a newspaper, television or smart-phone. Not far away, people were killing one another and dying. People were running for cover, and many weren't finding it.
During my minibus ride back home to South Tel Aviv, I heard the city’s first air raid siren in over 20 years. Dusk fell, and the highway was much emptier than it ought to have been at that hour. Within five minutes of that heart-wrenching noise my fellow passengers were yelling at one another. “All Arabs are the enemy, because they are all Hamas,” one of them cried.
When a letter to the editor of an internationally recognized news source that comes from a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington is full of falsehoods it is hard to ignore it.
Claims such as most of the African asylum seekers here in Israel are actually migrant workers can’t be corroborated in part because the Israeli government won’t take the vast majority of the claims that these refugees want to make. As well, the centers that are described in the letter as providing free food and healthcare have also been described as “not suitable for humans” by Israeli officials in some cases.
This is the text of a speech that I gave 1 year ago after I was asked, by the director of Hashomer Hatzair North America, to speak at the memorial ceremony for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right wing Jewish extremist in 1995. The event was held at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan.
This speech was meant to communicate the experience of a teenager who suddenly awoke to the world beyond his neighborhood via a murder on the other side of the world. It was meant to communicate the severe frustration in knowing that, more than a decade and a half later, things are spiraling downward. This speech is supposed to be some kind of call to action for a Jewish community which could be a deafening voice for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine.