[This piece was originally published in the Winter Edition of Middlebury Magazine, as part of an 8-part series]
It’s mid-July 2014. In a taxi, winding through this ancient city’s hilly streets, I ask the driver how he’s doing.
“I’m super,” he says. “Everything is honey.”
“Oh, yes. It looks like all of the Middle East’s problems will be solved soon.” Here in Jerusalem, bomb sirens have been going off sporadically; they’ve been going off multiple times a day in Tel Aviv. More than a thousand Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed, as have three Israeli civilians and dozens of soldiers. (And by the summer’s end, that number rose to 2,131 Palestinians and 72 Israelis killed.)
I tell my driver he doesn’t sound convinced, and he laughs drily. “We’ll take out Hamas and there will be peace. And whatnot.”
“I don’t think it will work like that,” I begin, then realize the conversation already exhausts me. I’ve spent this last month in a haze punctuated by moments of adrenaline and fear.
“You know,” he says, pivoting. “No one likes the Palestinians. Not in the Arab world, not here.”
These days especially, I’ve grown accustomed to sweeping statements, to casual racism, and to callous disregard. Still something inside me says I should try.
“Sort of the way people felt about Jews in the past, right?”
He pauses. “You know,” he says, his tone still light, “you might be right.”
The conversation shifts to his interpretation of history—“Everyone’s racist!”—and to his son, who wants to be a country singer in Texas. We arrive at our destination, and he turns to me, his eyes now serious.
“Hey, listen. Don’t be too worried. We’re not so bad, our people.”
“I know,” I say. “But I’ve been really disappointed lately.”
“I’ve been disappointed, too.”
“I have,” he says. “We shouldn’t have bombed that hospital in Gaza.”
[Read on in the full piece here].