From Haifa to Ramallah: A First Hand Account of the Zionist and Palestinian Narrative (Part 2)
Haifa has been a part of Israel since 1948, therefore there remains overall less dispute surrounding the ownership of the northern port city.
Haifa is a mixed city, where both Arabs and Jews live, work, and study together, thus several political movements are able to find a support within the city.
Despite the media’s affinity for personifying Israel with those who hold notorious Zionist views, it is imperative to realize that Israel is not exclusively home to Zionist Jews.
Haifa is home to many Arabs, several of whom self-identify as Palestinian, and forego the Israeli identifier.
At the same time, there are several Israeli-Arabs (Arabs, Christian or Muslim, who possess Israeli citizenship) who proudly claim Israel as their home, while still acknowledging the tragedies that occur in Palestine.
Along with those individuals are Israeli-Jews with drastic, daring, Zionist convictions.
One of Them
When I first arrived to Israel, people would ask me why an American from southern California would uproot their life and live in Israel for an entire year- in Haifa of all cities.
I was honest. I would say that I was there to study Arabic and Hebrew, as well as international relations, but for the moment, my focus was on Arabic.
Immediately, people’s faces would cringe, and say “Why in the world would you want to learn Arabic?” or another common response, “Why would you want to be associated with them?”
I didn’t understand the weight of those inquiries until I really began to find my place in Haifa’s society. Wanting more than jut a tourist experience, I opted to share an apartment with local university students, all three of whom happened to be native-Arabic speakers.
We shared a home, meals, and stories. When we would leave the university together, evidently not Jewish, we would sometimes receive dirty look for throwing Arabic around instead of Hebrew.
At one point, we had all traveled downtown together and were exchanging stories about our classes that semester. An older man came up to us, and in Hebrew said, “You all speak Hebrew, so speak it,” and angrily walked away.
Even in Haifa, where evidence of non-Muslim Arabs and Israel-supporting Arabs were all around them, racism proved rampant among Israel’s Jewish population.
During my time at the university, I found that many young Jews, most of whom had all served the minimum three years of compulsory service in the IDF, did have an abnormal prejudice towards Arabs.
Phrases such as, “Dirty Arab,” and other suggestive insults were commonplace in local lexicon.
On Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, a young Muslim woman chose to not stand in silence to demonstrate respect for those who lost their lives, and instead, walked up to the line at our campus cafe, and waited for the alarm to end to receive service.
She received dirty looks, and rude, hushed comments.
Zionist Sentiment Among Millennials
If you ask most young Jews about the Zionist movement, they will disavow the radical political figures from the media, but still cling to many of the same ideas.
A prime example of this is the popularity of the platform of the newly-formed Zehut Party in Israel, somewhat comparable to the American Libertarian Party.
Although distinct from the more “radical right-wing” groups, the Zehut Party, led by Moshe Feglin, caters to a group of young individuals who aim to influence Israeli politics by Zehut’s motto, “Liberty, Purpose, and Jewish Identity.”
According to the Daily Wire’s interview with Feglin, the Zehut party proposes a unique solution to the Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict. “Financial assistance to emigrate, permanent residency status for ‘those who stay and openly declare their loyalty to Israel, just like residents of other Western countries,’ and ‘the few who wish to become loyal Israeli citizens and serve in the army…will be able to receive full citizenship following a lengthy and in depth examination.”
Although young Jews may not be lining the walls to cast their vote for the Likud party, many Zionist ideals are certainly ingrained in society.
What does this mean?
Residents of both Haifa and Ramallah, Jewish and Arab, find themselves in a land with no clear solution in sight.
The consensus reached by residents of both cities says “no two-state solution.”
To quote my dear hostel keeper in Ramallah, “Both sides will spew their support for a two-state solution to all of the polls and media sources, but none of us believe in it.”
The Trump administration’s ability to negotiate a deal with Israel and Palestine will heavily depend on the residents’ willingness to comply with the terms of the agreement, and musts be rooted in understanding of the complexities of politics on all sides of the Israeli border.