Interview of Debra Hirschberg by Megan Kenny

Could you tell me a little bit about Tikkun and its purpose?

Tikkun is a magazine that has been published about 18 years, maybe 20. It stands for “repair,” or “heal.” “Tikkun olam,” means “repair the world”—it’s a saying in Judaism. And it is progressive, and after 911, they decided [the editors and subscribers] they wanted to build a community; the people who subscribed to Tikkun were like-minded people, because there was a feeling that 9-11 was a symptom of disconnection, like we are not connected to each other.  Tikkun is about connecting to each other, to our higher selves. One of our projects is healing Israel and Palestine, as well as the network of spiritual progressives that are active in trying to bring a new look into politics. Michael Lerner is the visionary behind Tikkun; he is the editor of the magazine. The Tikkun community is co-chaired by Lerner, Cornell West and Sister Joan Chittister. You don’t have to be Jewish to be in Tikkun, you don’t even have to be spiritual to be in it.

As someone of Jewish Heritage, what does Israel mean to you?


It has meant different things to me at different times of my life.  When I was younger, there was a lot of pride. Yeah, pride, I would just say pride in Israel, especially the 1967 war. It was a “Wow, wasn’t that great, look Israel defeated all of its enemies in just 6 days” feeling.  he Jews were victims, the generation before me, my parent’s generation. Here, we had come busting out of the victim role, and I have an overall feeling the Israel should exist as a Jewish State. But I now have a feeling that the government acts in very inhumane ways with the occupation and that they have to end the occupation.  I have a whole political analysis, but I am a supporter of the state of Israel. I feel it’s important and I would consider myself a Zionist when it comes to where Zionists believe there should be a Jewish state.  Okay, I’m a Zionist. That Zionists believe that there should be a state in biblical lands, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, maybe some do, but I don’t. The Jewish state can be wherever.

Have you been to Israel in the past?

As a matter of fact, I have. I spent a year in Israel when I was in college. I spent my junior year, from 1974-75.

Someone once told me that children of Jewish descent were entitled to make a sort of pilgrimage to Israel.  Is that part of why you went?

Never mind just children of Jewish descent, any person that is born Jewish or converts in an orthodox way to Judaism. Not reformed descent. Either born Jewish or convert in a very traditional way has a right to emigrate to Israel and settle there. It’s called the Law of Return.  There is the term Diaspora. 

Have you heard of the Diaspora?

I think so, but I’m not sure.

The Jewish Diaspora, there is the Palestinian Diaspora. It’s the dispersion after people go into exile. So the Diaspora, we, Jews live in Diaspora. If we think that 3000 years ago we all lived in one place, a cohesive ethnic group, and then over the generations and millennia we have been dispersed through the corners of the world, so in China and Africa, on every continent there are Jewish people.  So it’s the broad Jewish Diaspora, and with the state of Israel there was this ingathering. The return from the Diaspora of Jews. So the Palestinians also have a Diaspora. The Palestinians have been dispersed to multiple continents and so their hope and vision is to create a state and have an ingathering of the Palestinian Diaspora. But I didn’t go to Israel to settle there.  I went because I was a religion major in college and was thinking about becoming a rabbi and I thought I would spend my junior year in Israel. I had always wanted to go, this was a ticket to go, it was less expensive than to go to the school here stateside, and I really took advantage of that opportunity as many students do to study abroad.

How many times have you been to Israel, and for how long?

Just that one time and it was 12 months.

What were your experiences like there?

I went to Israel pretty uncritical of Israel, and a pretty big supporter of Israel. And I left thinking the occupation had to end; if there was ever going to be peace, things had to change. I was there in 1974 and there had just been a war, less than a year before in 1973, the Yom-Kipper War. It was before the Lebanon Invasion. So Israel had still occupied the Sinai and the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza. So it was a feeling of expansion in the state of Israel that it had tripled or quadrupled its land mass. People could go and settle in places. The settlement movement hadn’t yet taken hold, but people were settling in various places and expanding. And mostly for defensive reasons, there was the feeling that, at least in Jerusalem, that the settlements that went into the occupied territories in Jerusalem were very close to the Green line, which is the border between Israel and Palestine.  Very close to the Green line and were set up as a defensive mechanism that an army couldn’t really invade Israel if they had to go through apartment complexes. That they would put civilians on the front line, kind of. And they reclaimed some historic things, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is where I went when I was there, part of its campus was in west Jerusalem and part in occupied territory, so after the 67 war, the campuses weren’t contiguous, but it became one university again, and people traveled back and forth between the campuses, without having to cross a border. What was the question?

What were your experiences like there?

I was a student, so what is a student’s experience. I talked to lots of people, I traveled around, I studied, I met lots of people, I shopped. I tried all of the local customs. I was young and I enjoyed myself. I felt that Jerusalem was a very special place, and I would say that you could feel the presence of something. Jews, we call it God, others call it something else, but there is something there that makes that spot on earth resonate. And there is no question that it resonates and was resonating before even the birth of monotheism. It was a sacred place like other places and there were sacred rocks and sacred wells. And you have that sense that there is some kind of something is Jerusalem. I spent very little time except for visiting, in other places. So I was pretty much right there, and I loved it. I lived in an apartment I moved off campus after the summer. And when you live in an apartment, when you live there, you have to become part of the civilian guard.  So I became a part of the civilian guard and I would go around once a week.  I think my shift was midnight to six or something like that. My roommate and I, this guy I lived with, would go around with these M1 semi-automatic rifles, and we would look for bombs in apartment building entry way, trash can, bus shelters, things like that. It was before the time that people were blowing themselves up. It was at the time when people were just leaving packages and they would blow up. There were several bombs when I was there. I was on a bus with a bomb on it, but somebody had recognized and asked who’s package that was and it wasn’t anyone’s, so we all got off and the bomb squad came in and that was that. There were signs everywhere, “Beware of Suspicious Packages,” kind of like orange alert, but much more serious.  You know we all blow it off [Orange alert], as we should, we aren’t in the same kind of danger here. The same kind of unattended bag stuff. Any time I see an unattended bag I take a step back.

Do you have any family or friends that presently live in Israel?

Not now. I mean I know some Israelis, but I wouldn’t say that I have friends or family there.

Would you say that what Israel means to you, is similar to other Jewish community members?

Yeah, I think Jews have a strong identity with the fact that there is a Jewish homeland. I may philosophically think that nationalism is a divisive political position to hold, and that all nationalism is divisive, whether it’s in Bosnia, or Northern Ireland, or wherever. But as long as there is nationalism and everyone wants their own state, I see no reason why there shouldn’t also be a Jewish state. It could be that when nationalistic movements run their course, you know nationalism was a big thing of the 19th century. “We’re going to be French; we’re going to be Germany.” These big powers were breaking up. People said we are going to create nations based on ethnic or cultural, mostly ethnic and racial identities. And it’s still a big movement, so I think why not Israel and I think most Jewish people feel that way. But I also think some Jewish people, I don’t want to speak for everybody, feel/think Israel can do no wrong or should not be criticized.

The same thing could be said for any country including America.

Yes and that you may love the country and hate the leaders. And we say to people, well are you denouncing your citizenship of America because you don’t support the current administration. Well am I denouncing my ties to Israel because I don’t support what the current administration is doing? No. Well I’m not a citizen of it, but I do believe it should exist. It’s clearer now that people do not like the current administration.

How do you feel you are related/have ties and impacted the conflict?

I don’t feel related to it, but I feel Jews in America have an obligation to force the American government/administration to actively engage in bringing a settlement to Israel Palestine.  Because America has been and I assume will continue to be a stalwart ally to Israel, believes Israel has a right to exist as a country and Israel can trust that in America. It is probably the only entity in world that can force Israel to make the steps necessary to bring peace. Even though there is a, among the citizenship, there is a great desire for a two state solution; the leaders must be forced to do it. So as an American Jew, I have some responsibility to lobby my government. I meet with representatives, I’ve gone to Washington and lobbied my senators and representatives to try and present my point of view of what I think should happen within the conflict. And so that politicians can see that there is a diversity of opinion among the Jewish community in America and that, we don’t all speak with one voice.  What that one voice would be I don’t know.

How much does religion play in the conflict?

I would say it’s not religious conflict. It’s a political conflict over land and resources, and safety and security, and genocide, annihilation and it’s not a religious conflict. I would not say it’s a conflict between Jews and Christians or Jews and Muslims or Muslims and Christians. The Palestinian community that existed in Israel, was pretty much split 50% Christian, 50% Muslim.  But, the Christians are the ones that are more likely to leave, so now it’s less. More Muslim than Christian. Yes, there are more Christians in the Diaspora although there are Palestinian Muslims in the Diaspora too, but there is a very large Palestinian Christian community in the Diaspora. But I wouldn’t say it was religion.

That’s why I wonder.  People are always saying it’s religion but everything I’m reading it doesn’t seem like it’s really about religion. 

It’s not religion. There are religious zealots that impact the conflict, who will assassinate people, like the Jewish zealots who assassinate Palestinians on Temple Mount, or in Hebron. We could say that they are doing it out of a sense of religious zeal or entitlement or something, but that’s not the root cause of the conflict and that’s not what’s preventing peace. They antagonize it, they don’t help. I’ll say if a Jewish person wants to live in Hebron, or Bethlehem or any place that may wind up in the eventual Palestinian state, go ahead, become a Palestinian. And practice being a Palestinian. Israeli is not a religion, Palestinian is not a religion. Separate the nationality from the two and live where you want.

In what ways do you struggle with the conflict?

I find that it’s very hard to solve. I have very little influence personally, so there’s not much I can do personally.  But you do what you can. I guess I would like people to be more educated about what’s going on there, about the history and not accept stereotypes. If those of us in the Diaspora are not able to come to an agreement, it’s because we want to hold onto an ideal. We are more likely to hold onto an ideal that we can win whatever that looks like and not to give in whatever that looks like because we are not living in the conflict zone. The people that are living in a conflict zone are more likely to compromise and be moderate because they want better quality of life and those of us who hold out for the ideals, the people that are holding onto the ideals, who want a one state solution for the Palestinians or the end of the state of Israel or the annexation of the west bank, or the driving out of the Palestinians for some Jewish extremists. Those people are holding onto that ideal, that is a luxury and a privilege to hold onto that ideal; it’s no skin off their back to hold onto that ideal. And it doesn’t help and I think it’s a problem. there’s much more schism here, among the Jewish community here, than there is among the Jewish community in Israel about what needs to be done because people are holding onto some ideal and I don’t even want to say ideal.  I want to say dream because it is a dream.

In the course of my class, I have read works by both Palestinian and Israeli writers.  Have you had experience in doing the same, and if so, has it altered your view of the conflict in any way?

I don’t read fiction. I read non-fiction by both Israeli and Palestinian writers.  I haven’t read any literature. I’m not much of a reader. But of course, everything I read gives me information and it’s not just facts. Because we can argue about the facts.  Although we can agree that somebody died, we don’t agree how they died, who killed them and why they were in harm’s way. So the facts are important in a historical context, but I’m reading more for vision. You know, what do people think can happen out of this. What are people’s hopes and desires, and the facts are important.  I’m reading a fabulous book by a Palestinian called Once Upon a Country.  It is just fabulous.  I would recommend that as well as Healing Israel/Palestine by Michael Lerner. But, yeah, there are great books by Tanya Reinhart, a great Israeli writer who unfortunately has died, who wrote about the conflict. There’s lots of material.  It doesn’t alter my view. Well I suppose at some point it altered my view because I grew up one way and I now think another way. But it was being in Israel that altered my view the most. But I was probably reading a lot of Palestinian and Israeli literature when I was in Israel. So maybe that’s the thing. English language papers, talking to people and reading the papers and so of course it must have altered my view. We are taught simplistic things as children. We are, there’s the ambiguity, which is hard to understand.

Recently, we had a speaker in class that related the problem in Israel-Palestine with that of white Americans and African Americans.  Examples being that if streets in both Israel and Palestine needed to be fixed, the ones in Israel would be fixed first.  Would you say that this is an accurate assessment?

I would completely disagree with the statement, but I would not disagree with the fact that the Jewish population in Israel gets preferential treatment in social services and resources. But within Israel proper there are Jews and non Jews. So to say that Israel will be fixed first; the Jewish neighborhoods tend to get fixed first.  And certainly in occupied territory all of the resources go into the settlements. Protecting them, building them, putting roads to them, infrastructure, utilities etc. And very little goes into the infrastructure for the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages, although it used to, but not so much any more. They built a certain level of minimalistic infrastructure so that people were surviving. When they occupied Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Israel had a stronger infrastructure than the areas that they occupied. There was just a discrepancy and they did bring some the of the resources in initially to a base minimal level, but after that no. Now it’s really up to the UN to provide schooling, hospitals in occupied territory.  Is it like whites and blacks in America? I don’t know. As much as neighborhoods are integrated, I would say it’s a class difference in the US, not a racial. Money is spent in neighborhoods that have money; resources are invested in neighborhoods that already have resources and not in the neighborhoods that don’t have the resources.  So the inner-city, whether it is white, black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever, is generally neglected while the outer ring suburbs are generally not. Now do people of different racial backgrounds live in both? Yes.  I would say that it’s more a class thing. And I think class is a big issue in Israel, I think the poor Jews, the immigrant Jews from the Soviet Union and Africa don’t get the resources that well established Jews do. So I think the same class distinctions exist, although I think Israel is more socialistic. A social-democracy. The hospitals are state run; the doctors are paid like bus drivers.  There is not as large a discrepancy, so the rich aren’t as rich and the poor aren’t as poor. But there is still quite a bit of a discrepancy.

The media is often blamed for perpetuating certain situations and conflicts like this one.  Do you feel the Media or some other party might perpetuate this conflict even further?

I think the media perpetuates conflict because they show conflicts, they don’t show daily life. It’s not very classical. They don’t show people sitting down talking to each other or planting a garden together, or whatever the efforts are for collaboration aren’t covered in the media. Now a little blood and guts and the cameras will be there. Does that perpetuate the conflict? Unfortunately, I don’t think we can blame it on that. I think there would still be acts of aggression on both sides. There’d be a violent act and a retaliation from it and then another one and a retaliation so then you don’t know who’s retaliating for what. But there would be this whether there were cameras there are not. Where the media contributes to that is by not going deeply into the conflict not talking about people or any of the ambiguity nothing is ambiguous somebody’s right somebody’s wrong, etc. I mean, I’m very negative on mainstream media but there’s a lot of other media and the Internet has certainly made it possible to see all these different sides. We may not believe everything we’ve read and we shouldn’t, that you read on the Internet but certainly there is a variety of information and you can go to various websites to find out somebody’s opinion of what’s news for the day.

I’ve also heard from several people that they feel the US has further perpetuated the conflict, with its support and funding to Israel.  Would you agree?

No. I would agree only in the fact that maybe Israel wouldn’t be around if the U.S. hadn’t gone to its defense. Not initially, the U.S. wasn’t a big supporter of Israel until the 1973 war. Really it wasn’t until 1973 with Nixon, that big bags of bucks started going into Israel from the U.S. It was tempered foreign aid like to any other country. It wasn’t an imbalance. They got of course the money but it wasn’t like $10,000,000 to Israel and $150 to Jordan. Do I think it perpetuates the conflict? No.  I think it’s a conflict on its own. I mean I think, I would say, and I believe this is a true statistic, that 75% of the foreign aid that is budgeted for Israel by the State Department never leaves the United States. It is money that is given to the defense contractors to make things that then go to Israel. So its part of our military industrial complex that provides jobs and stuff like that. If they didn’t do that, they’d be giving arms to someone else. It’s part of that thing, it’s not money that Israel has choices over how they can spend it. If you read this stuff in the state department appropriation bills they will say that we’re giving Israel such and such amount of money to be spent in the United States to do blah blah blah. So it’s not like Israel gets this pot of gold and can choose to do with it what they wish, it’s lots of strings attached. Now does that perpetuate the conflict because it provides military support and weapons? Of course. Yes, guns perpetuate conflict, so do bulldozers. You would have to demilitarize everyone. It is unfair in my opinion to say you can’t do this anymore but these people over here can. Of course I think that the U.S. should stop having its economy based largely on military exports. Which it is, it is, completely. And it would be a great thing to end. It’s one of the things we talk about when you talk to our Congress representatives. We talk about; can we invest this money in the United States to provide solar power research for Israel? Well we have, with water desalination things, there is shortage of fresh water but there are oceans of it, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.  You know lots of water but it’s unusable, so there’s been a lot of research and progress that has been made to desalinate the water to be used for agriculture in Israel. And those types of investments, the Soviet Union was doing it for Egypt because when I was in Israel, I went to the Sinai Peninsula and there were soviet installation that they provided Egypt to desalinate the water. It was probably the Cold War, you know the U.S. is in supporting Israel, so the Soviets are supporting the Arab states so I think that type of research is very good.

In what ways do you feel the US has aided in perpetuating the conflict?

I don’t think the United States perpetuates the conflict. The conflict would be happening with or without the United States. I think the United States has an obligation to help end the conflict.  It is the only entity, although we’ve lost our moral standing in part the Arab world, so maybe we’ve lost that opportunity. But it was the only entity that could bring influence to both sides.  Part of it is because of our wealth. Egypt agrees to a peace treaty with Israel, Egypt is the second largest recipient of foreign aid by the U.S.  Why?  Because they agreed to have peace with Israel.  So that doesn’t perpetuate the conflict. So the U.S. has the power of the purse really to say, you agree to do this and we can help you out. In a straight fact basis, the U.S. provides military support to Israel that facilitates the perpetuation of military incursions by Israel. Israel also has an enormous military industrial complex, and the United States, and I firmly believe this, although no one would say it, that the US was forcing Israel to continue its incursion into Lebanon a couple of summers ago, because they wanted to try out their hardware in preparation for a war in Iran, and they tried out their hardware for the wars in Iraq in Israel. Let’s see how this tank does in the desert, let see how we could do this. So there is a great role-playing game that the US and Israel are playing. Now I’ll take that back, the U.S. may perpetuate the complex by asking Israel to do the dirty work for them. Like Israel bombed the nuclear facilities in Iraq back in the ‘80’s for the United States and they did something in Syria recently and the U.S. probably said: do it, we can’t do it. Using Israel as its surrogate army to do things that it feels like it cannot politically stomach, but would be acceptable for Israel to do in return for favors.

How do you fell the conflict can be resolved? Do you think a one-state or two-state solution would be best?

Yeah, all it takes a few people with open hearts to say we don’t want to live this way.  And it would be in everyone in the region’s best interest for there to be a regional solution that includes both the state of Israel and a PalestinianState and an economic linkage of the two. With open borders and great economic development and so the agriculture is shared, factoring is shared, and not just that the Palestinian State why not with Lebanon Jordan and Syria and Egypt. To have much more of a regional solution.  Both Palestine and Israel are tiny compared to its neighbors.  Lebanon is also small but Lebanon is also in as much conflict internally as Israel and Palestine between the two entities, between Christians and Muslims, and so there needs to be really a regional solution.  I don’t think there’ll be peace between Israel and Palestine if there is a conflict in Lebanon that’s unresolved.  It has to be regional.  And of course the foundation of it, in my opinion is a two-state solution. I think it would be unpalatable to go to one-state solution. Maybe after two-states solution they could agree to a Federated governments or maybe something will change that nationalism will fall by the wayside. But I think it is not practical to have a one state solution and what does a one-state solution.

And what does a one-state solution mean?  What do you think it would be?

To me it would be Israel and Palestine together as one, similar to here in the U.S.  Where it is a Federated government or Parliamentarian government with representatives from each area. So it would be much more Federal where there’s equal representation. That could be, that there’s a single government, but if it’s not representative by states with local governmental control I don’t think it will work.

And that goes back to my feeling of nationalism. Why should Israel voluntarily give up our national aspiration for somebody else’s national aspiration, when nobody else is doing it. OK I’ll do it. I’ll be the 10th to do it, but let someone else lead the way. Let Quebec give up its nationalistic inclination and be satisfied with being Canadian. You know, let that conflict be solved. Let Northern Ireland’s citizens give up their nationalistic aspirations to be part of Great Britain. No. So why should Israel? If there becomes a seat change, like nationalism was a seat change from empire to nationalism, then maybe we’ll go from nationalism to regionalism or whatever the next thing would be collective. Residents will govern themselves no matter who they are. But, at this point I’m not sure it’s something that can occur, and if it did it would be because there’s less value on a Jewish State, than there is any other national aspiration.  And it would, I would perceive that as kind of anti-Jewish.  It’s like saying we’re going to make you give up your state but, we’re going to let the Kosovo’s have their own state even under tremendous opposition from others.  Let them break off.  How did they get that right?  I’m not saying one thing good or bad about Kosovo, I don’t know enough about it, but a new nation was just born.  And now we want to get rid of one and make it greater Palestine.  Why? Why are people pushing it?  Let’s have a Palestinian state. Palestinians can live in Israel, Jews can live in Palestine, Jews who live in Palestine will become Palestinians, Muslims and Christians who live in Israel will become Israelis, as they are now. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a religious state, and Israel really is a secular state that has a Jewish majority population. So, it is what it is.  Everybody doesn’t worship the same, and you know what not all Jews are the same, in their religious aspirations, or practices, or observances or whatever. Although, I bet the Vatican is a Catholic city-state.


In what ways do you think the US could function in resolving the conflict?

Many, many ways. The U.S. has to step up to the plate. Really they can withhold all dollars like George Bush Sr. did, for money that Israel is using for settlements. They can ask U.S. corporations to not participate in activities in occupied territory unless they are requested by the residents, the Palestinian residents.  I’m not saying don’t build whatever, but to not further the occupation.  They can provide a tremendous amount of economic and logistical assistance to Palestinians to develop the governments of their own.  They could stop looking at people one-dimensionally.  They made a terrible mistake forcing the Palestinians to an election thinking it would come out one way and it came out another way.  We’re really dealing with three entities and I recently heard that we now have four.  We’re no longer thinking of just the Palestinians, but we are dealing with Israelis and their elected government, and with Fatah and its elected government, Hamas and its elected government and we’re dealing with the Jewish Settlement Movement and its disdain for the Israeli elected government. And it’s [the Jewish Settlement Movement] just saying we’re going our own way and we don’t care what you do.  There are these four entities that need to be brought together. You know 10 years ago, or 15 years ago it was a lot simpler.  You know opportunities come and go, and some of them have gone.  But the United States has to be actively involved at the highest level, not by some low level diplomat.  The Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, the high level, Madeline Albright place.  Someone with real influence and I would say at the Presidential place as well.   I’ll tell you I think Condoleezza Rice could do something.  I think she is committed on some level to doing something about this and what she says in public is probably different from what she says in private.  And there is probably more movement going on than we are lead to believe because of Rice.  It has just happened in the last 6 months, but there is probably more movement and we can see this because Israel has let in some resources that were at the border for months and months.  Did Rice go and say you have to make a move here?  I think Israel has to accept the cease fire offer from Hamas, even is they continue to proclaim that they do not recognize the state of Israel. By entering into a treaty or agreement with them, they are by defacto recognizing the state of Israel by agreeing to the treaty, because otherwise who are they agreeing with?  So, we can say here is the rhetoric and here is what the actions on the ground are going to be.  Let’s look at the actions on the ground and try to take action steps and maybe rhetoric will end.  Do I think the insertion should lay down its arms to see what happens?  I don’t know if that’s wise. But should they accept a cease fire offer from Hamas and let Hamas try and hold people responsible who are sending the rockets over.

Yeah, why not? Give it a try, everything else hasn’t worked. Try something new, nothing else has worked.  What could happen that is worse than what is happening?  This is what the US has to say and if something worse starts to happen, the US would step in to guarantee Israel’s existence on a military level and be prepared to do so.  And that would be the trade-off. Take a risk. The de-occupation of Gaza was terrible.  While all of us of the peace camp were, “yay end the occupation,” you don’t unilaterally end the occupation without negotiating for someone else to step in and take over the services and things that were being provided.  As minimal as the services were, there was still something, where there is now nothing.  And we can always say it was never enough.  And we agree on that, but is it better now.  Not for the Gaza citizen and not for the political situation either.  It is not moving forward the push for the Palestinian state, its making it more difficult for the Palestinian state to come into existence.  If there is true reconciliation, true atonement and reconciliation. The acts have happened they are over and done with, we can’t go back. You can truly atone and we can recognize that these actions were harmful and we are sorry and then we can try and reconcile and move forward.  It’s what happened in South Africa.  The reconciliation project was seen to take two populations that were killing each other and apologize and say this is where we are at, and we are going to move forward.  And steps would be taken.  And I think over time, there would be some sort of fairer distribution of resources with some reconciliation.  Even among the Israelis, the Israelis are not of one class, but we think of them all in one way, just as we do the Palestinians.

Analysis by Megan Kenny

The conflict in Israel and Palestine is a complex one. There are a multitude of viewpoints as to the history and future of the situation in the Middle East, and in order to understand these many viewpoints, there needs to be discussion with those that have seen firsthand the state of the conflict.  In my experiences with this class, I have encountered several people, with several different viewpoints, but have been left yearning for even more. So I chose to interview Debra Hirshberg of the Tikkun community in Cleveland as my final project. Debra is the coordinator of the Tikkun community in Cleveland and spends some of her time lobbying government officials on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She has visited Washington and spoke with various Senators and Representatives in a hope of expressing her thoughts and views on the conflict; she recognizes that she only represents one of the many opinions and viewpoints that are held concerning this conflict.  During her junior year of college, the year after the Yom-Kippur War, she spent the year abroad in Jerusalem.  While there, she encountered many people and her view of Israel changed greatly from a childhood pride to an understanding of the many complexities of the situation and a feeling that the occupation was doing nothing to help the situation, and must end.

My first objective for this project was to see how and if Debra’s experiences were similar or different to those that we have read in class. Debra’s experiences in Jerusalem were both similar and different to the many stories we read. She stated that growing up, she had nothing but pride in Israel, but as she experienced the gravity of the occupation in Jerusalem, she realized that it needed to end for there to ever be peace.  This is similar to the experience of Uri in Smile of the Lamb. Although it was not expressed that Uri had so much pride in Israel, his view of the occupation became one of somewhat disgust for the way the Israel was treating the Arabs.  I do not want to misuse Ms. Hirshberg’s words, but she said that the human rights violations that are being committed against the Palestinians by the Israeli government have been one thing that impacts her view.  She feels that Israel should still exist, but there needs to be some solution that remedies the human rights violations that are occurring.  While the issue with the donkey in Smile of the Lamb is not a human rights violation, it is certainly not an appropriate form of “punishment” or “control” over the Palestinian population.

However, her experience was also different from the characters in the stories we read.  It is evident as with all perspectives, Debra’s would be different, simply from the background in which she grew up in.  Debra grew up in America, outside the conflict zone.  Few characters we read about grew up outside the conflict area.  For the most part, the characters spent the greater part of their life in the conflict.  And those that did tended to adapt more to the reality of the situation, trying to find any way to survive and have eventual peace.  Her feelings of the conflict only adapted once she spent time in the conflict.  So it seems that without the direct access to the conflict, you cannot possibly know what it is like for the people living in the middle of it.

Although I initially chose Debra to interview because I wanted a Jewish perspective on the issue, her explanation of what the Jews and Palestinians in the region are feeling and dealing with was very similar to the experiences of Adil in Wild Thorns.  While Adil did not want to accept the situation, he did because otherwise he and his family would be left destitute.  Adil is willing to try for peace, and remain non-violent, which is what most Israeli’s and Palestinian’s are hoping for.  They want to take care of their families and keep them from harm and would do just about anything to ensure that.  This is identical to the experiences that Debra is illustrating about the residents currently in Israel-Palestine.

The experiences that Debra had when in Jerusalem were very interesting to me.  During her time there, she lived off campus in an apartment, and was therefore required to serve in the civilian guard.  She would sweep doorways and trash cans and other places like that in search for bombs.  To me this displayed the gravity of the situation.  She explained that there were several bombs when she was there and that the bomb squad would be called in to dismantle the bombs.  Meeting someone who actually experienced finding bombs was amazing.  Before, it almost seemed like an abstract thing, the sweeping for bombs.  But knowing that Debra had actually encountered bombs during her time in the civilian guard was really enlightening.

There was also an instance in which Debra was on a bus with a bomb on it.  She recounted it as someone noticing a stray package and in turn asking everyone on the bus if it was theirs.  She said that everyone responded that it was not theirs.  So they evacuated the bus and the bomb squad was called in.  These stories are so important because they show the gravity of the situation and the fear that was experienced every day.  Luckily she wasn’t there during the time of people blowing themselves up; it was only during the time when people left packages to blow up.

It was interesting to see how the experiences with random bombing that Debra encountered, didn’t leave her with so much of poor opinion about the presumed Palestinian population.  Instead, she observed that Israeli forces were acting in inhumane ways with their occupation of Palestine.  She really had an open mind to the situation, and didn’t simply believe what she was necessarily brought up to believe.

Debra’s experiences have certainly impacted my own views and thoughts on the conflict, as has all the reading I was exposed to this semester has.  It is only through experience that we learn, and I’d have to say that my experience here has broadened my understanding of the many Jewish perspectives that are exhibited, not only in Israel but in America and around the world.  While I always knew there were many ways to see the conflict, I don’t think I ever accounted for the many views that could be exhibited in each population.  But after learning that there are basically four governments in Israel, it is evident that there is a multitude of views of the conflict and opinions as to how it might be resolved.

Through this project, I was honored to be able to experience second-hand the experiences that Debra had in shaping her view of the conflict.  I was intimidated with the amount of information that she brought to the table, as well as how she wanted to hear my opinion on the conflict, however elementary or rudimentary it might have been.  Her experiences have helped me to examine my thoughts on the subject in how I approach and how I visualize this conflict.  I now better understand the feelings that are brought into the issue, as well as just how many viewpoints are involved in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.