A Palestinian Islamic jihad member was killed by shells fired from an Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
Although the news of another death in the Middle East is upsetting, it is not likely surprising.
Headlines such as “Tensions are on the rise in the Middle East,” “Relations among Christians and Muslims undergoing severe conflict,” and even reports of deaths in the Middle East after tempers went out of hand, are familiar to most people. After taking in all this negative news, one might wonder why there is so much unrest.
Professor of English, Kim Van Es, who recently went to Israel with her husband and is planning on returning to the area with students on a spring study abroad, explained some of what is going on in Israel.
Tensions between the Jewish and Muslim populations have been growing since the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. After the war, the UN divided the area into Palestinian and Israeli areas. However, the Jewish populations have been continually spreading out and encroaching upon Palestinian lands. The Palestinians’ high birth rate is causing their population to increase, and paired with the loss of land, many Muslims are being squeezed and crowded out of their homes.
While the Jewish side is often supported by Americans involved in the Christian Zionist Movement, there seems to be no one taking the side of these marginalized Palestinians. As the West Bank continues to become more and more settled by Israelis, the Palestinians feel forced to resort to violent conflict in some cases, unsure of how else to preserve the land that the UN had said should belong to them.
To deal with the tension, the groups live totally separate existences. Jews and Muslims don’t talk, do business or interact. Many people grow up never hearing the thoughts or stories of people from the other side, mostly because they will never get the chance to talk.
When Van Es and her husband visited the old city of Jerusalem, which has been divided into Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters, the group split up to talk to individuals of each. The tourists asked them what they wanted most and came back with a united answer from all: Shalom or Shalaam. Everyone in the area simply wanted peace and an end to all the fighting. People simply wanted freedom to live their everyday lives, raise their families in safety and to get along with their neighbors.