I am not going to pretend that I have anything constructive to add to the Israeli and Palestinian peace issue. Because I don’t. I’m not an expert on Middle Eastern inter-relations, and do not know as much as I’d like about American foreign policy within the region.
I know a little bit more about adolescence, being still in the throes of it, and being required to take classes on adolescent development so that I can legally teach Twelfth Night (not to mention the pivotal role porridge plays in folk tales) in a high school setting. And adolescence and growing up is hard enough in Fort Collins. Growing up in Israel is heart wrenching.
In this years’ Academy Awards, a documentary called “Promises” was contending for the honor of best in its genre. The film tracked five or six 10 to 13 year olds, both Palestinian and Israeli, for a brief period, as they tried to wade through the mire of political and religious strife. The filmmakers were trying to find the budding adolescents underneath such a heavy mantle of hate. The film leaves one thinking that maybe, with this next generation, an actual and lasting peace is possible in such a ravaged region.
But time is the great popper of bubbles. And hate starts young.
CBS’s 60 Minutes II ran a report earlier this week tracking the fate of the young adolescents after the tape for “Promises” stopped rolling. And the fallout from spending a period of such tremendous development in a pressure cooker like Israel is devastating.
“Promises” features a 12-year-old Israeli boy named Moshie, who is already heinously bigoted. He lives with the memory of his murdered best friend, who was shot by Palestinians. And as he sits talking about how he hopes for a Palestinian/_”free Israel, one can expect him to be a lost cause. And he is. Five years later, in the CBS piece, Moshie still sits in his all-Jewish world, calling all Palestinians “animals.”
But the documentary also features a set of Israeli twin boys, 12 at the time of filming. They eagerly agree to meet with Sanibel, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl. And for an idyllic, kind-of-tenses-up-your-throat afternoon, Palestinian girls and boys give two Israeli kids a tour of an Arab refugee camp, and they all end up eating delicious-looking Mediterranean food and rough housing. No guns are present.
Five years later, the twins look the same, just taller. They look like kids I could have gone to school with. They sit together outside their home, and talk about how the fear they feel now would preclude any desire to meet up with those Palestinians they met so long ago. One, Yarko, said in the CBS report, “I would say that I understand them, and on the other hand, I would say, ‘Guys, I don’t want to die.'”
Most of the kids I went to school with were really just worried about dating and how to pass notes without getting caught.
Five years later, Sanibel delivers one of the scariest threats I have ever heard. She has of course witnessed the death of friends and the imprisonment of her father. But she calmly and candidly talks with the interviewer about her desires to become a suicide bomber.
“I start wondering how I can become a suicide bomber. How, as a girl, I can blow up a place like Netanya or Jaffa street, or anywhere else.” Sanibel is 15.
I think the peace process is a worthwhile goal. But an adolescent formed in a crucible of such venom emerges a steely adult supporter of the bloody status quo.
Regardless of the promises they make.
Sarah Laribee is an English major seeking her teaching certificate. She welcomes comments.