I went to my friend’s funeral a few weeks ago. Walking into the graveyard at the outskirts of Tel Aviv, I could see classmates from high school, friends who served in my unit in the army, teachers, parents, all there to say their last goodbyes.
Roy was a remarkable student-athlete who struck the perfect balance between his passion, volleyball, and his intellectual pursuits. He took a year off before enlisting to go to a preparatory educational program focused on leadership. He was an outstanding officer in the Israeli Defense Forces with a beautiful, radiant smile. He was about to turn 22.
His death was the worst thing that could happen. And at his funeral, I began to think about the other thousands of people losing loved ones, both Israelis and Palestinians. I thought about his family and about all the families on both sides, burying their children, brothers, husbands and grandchildren.
These families will remain broken forever, and will never be able to heal. They remind us that it is time to end this war for good, not just to postpone it for another year or two. They — we — should all be calling to end this conflict once and for all.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t. On both sides, people have given up on the prospect of a solution.
Several weeks ago I read an article entitled “Never ask me about peace again,” written by a young Palestinian. The author described the incomprehensible agony of losing nine members of her family in a bombing in Gaza. Her pain is unfathomable. But what I failed to understand was how she, of all people, would not want to talk about peace. She knows better than anyone the pain of war, so why wouldn’t she want to resolve this conflict before many others have to stand in her shoes?
If you care about anyone involved in the conflict, anyone on either side, you want it to end. That is the most important thing to understand. And those who do not want an ending, those who just want victory for their “side,” must understand that this conflict will have no winners. The state of Israel will not go away, just as Palestinians will not leave the region. Denying this is damning both peoples to a sentence of never-ending conflict and everlasting war. The terms upon which the resolution will stand are contestable, but the end goal is to solve the conflict.
If you aren’t in the warzone or political office, you actually have a relative advantage. You aren’t mired in politics and the immediate aftermath of battle. Therefore, even if you feel pain, you have distance from the situation. Use that distance to talk about solutions and not about hatred. Talk to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and make them see this war as a wake-up call for everyone involved — a wake-up call for resolution.
Talk about the Saudi Arabian peace offer that is still lying on the table: the Arab League, which consists of 22 countries including Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, agreed to normalize their relations with Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal from occupied territories and a solution for the Palestinian refugees. Talk about changes that can be incorporated into the offer so that Israel can accept it with the support of its citizens. Talk about Kerry’s honest attempts to work towards a ceasefire; talk about ways his efforts could be improved. Talk about a solution that would enable Israel to secure its people from terror while minimizing casualties on both sides. Crystallize these possibilities into reality. Don’t focus only on the failures.
And when you talk about the conflict, it’s important to keep in mind its immensely long and complex history. Taking into account the conflict’s history will complicate the story — it will show wrongs and moral failings on both sides. But taking it out of context is meaningless, provocative and inefficient.
All of this is only a start. But if we create this strong foundation, we will be able to build upon it. Our community at Yale consists of people from over a hundred countries, including many in the Middle East. We can all take this message to our homes and talk about it. We have the power to be a massive force. Think about it, write about it, talk about it with people who have opposing opinions, but find agreement in the mutual desire to solve this conflict.
Our dialogue can start on campus and resonate outward. Let’s drown out those calling for hate and violence. Let’s offer a strong, intelligent voice for peace.
Lia Weiner is a sophomore in Pierson College. Contact her at email@example.com.