Naomi Farahan of Carmel, Indiana, is a rising senior at University High School. She is the founder and editor in chief of the U Post – her high school’s online publication, president of the Young Democrats Club and participates in a number of other activities. Naomi has a close connection to Israel and has always been an advocate for the country. This summer, she is traveling Israel with Young Judaea’s Discovery program, after receiving theHadassah Leaders of Tomorrow Award. This highly selective merit-based award gives two high school women the opportunity to receive full tuition for a four-week Young Judaea Teen Summer Program in Israel.
Israel is made up of many relationships. Some are intricately intertwined, winding and balanced. Others are constantly on edge, leaving neighbors at war with one another. This week, we explored these relationships and how they impact Israeli society as a whole.
We met with Arab-Israeli teenagers as a part of a coexistence seminar. I spoke with several girls my age. They wore gold glitter eyeliner and T-shirts with incoherent English writing. My grandmother used to buy me these same shirts when she visited Israel. We talked about the American television shows that they watch and the American singers that they like. They taught us the most “critical” Arabic curse words they thought we should know.
As you might imagine, neither group was completely comfortable. They laughed nervously when asked about the consequences of marrying a Jew. The response: “What would your parents do if you married one of us?” Even in broken English, this question carried the weight of historical tension and quite a bit of wit.
There were mixed conversations on the topic of Israel’s relationship with Hamas. Some offered conspiracy theories and dissenting views. In our group, the teenagers simply stated, “We want peace.” This is easy to say, but hard to define. They all agreed that they felt ties to their country as well as their religion.
Later in the week, we met with Jewish-Israeli teenagers. They were forced to evacuate their homes because of the looming threats of missiles. In some ways, this conversation was more awkward. Perhaps this is because we worked less hard and assumed a connection would come easier because they were Jewish. My Hebrew should have been better, and they said the same about their English.
Once we became more comfortable with one another, these teenagers shared stories of sirens and rockets. They showed us videos and picture collages of missiles from Gaza meeting defense missiles shot from the Iron Dome. They showed these images nonchalantly, which reinforced the feeling that I am just a guest here. The political climate here is their reality.
Our hostel was located in a Druze village, which provided a unique perspective on religion in Israel. Our Druze host explained the history and ideals of his religion, saying that reincarnation is the ultimate trust in god. The belief that each individual can trust that there is something beyond the suffering he/she experiences in any given lifetime. I found the Druzim to be incredibly reflective in their collection of ideas from different religions and centuries.
The common factor for all of these people, of course, is a vibrant belief in god. As a result of this belief, there are several common factors across cultures. For instance: respect for family, passion for religion, and the use of food as a means of hospitality. But it is easy to notice the aspects of our cultures that unite us, and hard to openly discuss and solve the issues that tear us apart. Politics is not as easy as a group of teenagers from different parts of the world sharing ideas about the future. I suppose I can only hope that things will change. Especially considering this ceaseless, unrelenting push for a cease-fire. Like the Arab-Israeli teenagers said, “We just want peace.” I wish it could be that simple.