A Letter from Tel Aviv

July 24th, 2014

By Yael Patir, J Street Israel Director

Painful, frightening, hopeless, horrible, terrifying - are some words that come to mind to describe the feeling in my homeland these days -- but they are inadequate to describe how it really feels. My inability to change the course of events that have already cost too many lives, breaking families and hopes while seeding more hatred and despair, is truly depressing. 

As an Israeli as well as a peace activist, I have lived a kind of double life for the past few weeks. I have sought ways to voice support for my country and deep admiration for our courageous soldiers in battle while also expressing my compassion for Palestinian civilians, who are paying such an awful price. I have gone out of my way to buy products from businesses in the south of Israel that have not been able to open since the start of this operation and are in dire need of financial assistance. And I have called and corresponded with my Palestinian friends and shared words of concern and comfort.

In my mind, there is no contradiction. I can both support the soldiers while also calling on my government to reach a ceasefire as soon as possible.

My husband was drafted and is taking part in this operation. I am proud of him for volunteering to protect our country and admire his courage and leadership in making sure the soldiers under his command are as safe as possible under the circumstances.

At the same time, I protest in the streets and call for the operation to end and for the IDF to leave Gaza and for the Israeli government to end occupation and negotiate a peace deal. Sometimes during protests, I have had to scramble to safety when a siren has sounded warning of a rocket attack. I have also faced opposition to our demonstration and messages that have sometimes crossed the line from abusive to violent.

Being an Israeli peace activist obliges me to hear the stories and understand the narratives as they are told on both sides of the conflict.

To be genuine and true to this cause it is also clear to me, as I explain to my family and friends, that my actions and speech are aimed first and for most to protect my family, country and nation.

While we might all love Israel and think exactly the same about the conflict and its possible solution, I recognize that we are coming to it from different positions. Still, it upsets me to know that pro-Israel pro-peace activists abroad struggle to find a space to voice their love to Israel and concern for both Israelis and Palestinians in a way that is (as it should be) accepted by the community.