By Flora Lazar
Two nights ago, I awoke at 2:00 AM, threw on my dress, and met my Russian neighbors in the stairwell of my Tel Aviv hotel, waiting for the sirens to die down. The last place I expected to be in my “week without travel” was Tel Aviv. But when J Street decided to send a mission to Israel to express solidarity with all the people of the region suffering under the current violence, it felt important to make this very brief trip.
I don’t pretend to be equipped to comment on the details of a political solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. But if you saw the deserted streets and beaches of this vibrant city in the height of the tourist season, you would realize that the battle of dueling narratives is truly exacting a toll, even on a country that numerous commentators have said can afford to ignore the price of ongoing conflict.
I was here in May with a J Street Congressional Delegation. Many asked then if there was anything to be optimistic about after the breakdown of peace talks. In meetings with civil society and business leaders on both sides – as well as political leaders – we all agreed that notwithstanding the breakdown of the talks, there remained a genuine desire in both Israeli and Palestinian societies for peace. What stands in the way is politics.
The will we heard expressed on both sides of the conflict is fragile and possibly facing its biggest test yet. So as you watch the news and try to figure out what to make of the Gaza situation and its spillover into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I hope you will think about David Grossman, who lost his own son in 2006 to the all-too-tempting proposition that military action can root out extremism once and for all.
I encourage you to follow our meetings with politicians, peace advocates, and most importantly, victims’ families on both sides of the conflict. For those of you who are “Twitter-literate,” I would encourage you to follow J Street on Twitter. You can also follow along on the J Street blog.
This piece was written as an email dispatch from Flora to friends and was reprinted here with her permission.