The pictures I see from over there no longer seem remote. They seem very next door and they haunt me. I've seen pictures of young Israelis who have been abducted, tortured and killed. I have seen a picture of the four-year-old son of a Hamas party member -- a young boy who is growing up with no sense of safety, security, and homeland. These are people I might have eaten with, bought things from, or shared with in other ways while I was there.
Israelis and Palestinians work, live, and even play together on a regular basis. The common people, no matter which group they identify with, are just like you and me in that they want to live in peace and harmony with those around them. In fact, though we may express ourselves in less violent ways because we have not had quite the number of years of frustration out of which violence is borne, we probably have more extremists per capita here in the US than they do in Israel.
I don't know what the answer is. I wish that, when I was there, I would have had the courage and time to talk to more people and figure out where their minds are at. I am sure that I cannot imagine the thought processes of someone who doesn't know where to call home, nor of someone who has had frustration, anger, and hatred burned into their very DNA since birth.
Lasting peace is only going to occur with change on both sides. That's apparent. Change only occurs when the situation is such that leaders -- on both sides -- are broken; they see that the status quo is only going to lead to more pain. Unfortunately, though the Israelis have made some token attempts toward change and resulting peace in recent months, it appears that the feeling of hatred is still seething at the surface, ready to erupt at any point. (Palestinians are at a similar point but they don't have quite so big of an axe to wield if they wish.) For Israeli leadership, they see themselves with a constant supply of soliders due to their mandatory enlistment. Their citizens, scared for their lives at points from Palestinian-wrought violence, are not objecting to the mandatory enlistment. For the leadership, I think their army has become more of a resource than a group of human beings put here by God to live and love. Until they can see them as individuals, just as the photos and memories cause me to, there will be no impetus for change, and peace will not be had. Palestinians, willing to blow themselves up if necessary to take out a few Israelis, are in this same boat.
In the end, God's love will rule over all. In the meantime, though, it is painful to watch how this is playing out.