Observing the Children in the Old City
Scott Cullinane is serving as an intern with the PIJ and Rabbis for Human Rights.
Before my first visit to Israel, I had already heard much about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and its seemingly vast and unsolvable nature. Now that I am living in Jerusalem, that first assessment seems unfortunately accurate in many ways.
However, I have been surprised by one thing above all else: the children. As I wander down the narrow side streets of the Old City it is impossible to help but notice the young children playing or working to complete their chores. They remind me not of what I saw on the news during the Intifada, but of what I see near my own home in America. In them I see a possibility. Whereas the current generation is too scarred by the past to move forward convincingly with the peace process, perhaps these children may be the ones to move forward.
In the Old City, on one block I am deep in the heart of an Arab-Muslim community, but all I have to do is turn a corner and I am suddenly transferred to an Orthodox-Jewish enclave. Jewish children and Arab children play just feet apart, yet they are separated by more than they themselves realize.
These Arab and Jewish kids are so similar and they live so close to one another. It begs the question of: Why can't coexistence work? Especially in the case of the Old City, where it appears that there hasn’t been any effort put forth to try it.
I suspect that if these same children were raised in another part of the world; the distinction between them of being Arab or Jewish would melt away into the background. But because of the environment that is created for them, it is their differences that are constantly emphasized, often in the form of negative stereotypes.
I cannot help but think that these children, free of the hate that infects their parents, could play together and live together without the constant underpinning of animosity that now exists. Due to the fact that these kids are segregated this early in life, as it is now they are destined to carry on the sentiments of the generation before them. Jews and Arabs are growing up, literally, within sight of one another, but I don't seem them talking or playing together.
This is a radical over-simplification of an immense situation that has spawned more speeches and writings than one could count. But, if these children could at least learn to play together, then might there be hope for the future?