To the Editor:
As a concerned human being and a Jew who also lives in Portsmouth, I can certainly sympathize with Ari Alexenberg and his family on their recent trip to Israel, as Mr. Alexenberg described in his guest column on May 30th in the Portsmouth Herald.
My life was not in danger on my visit to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza border on a visit a year ago. We related to average citizens, not terrorists. I’m afraid that my experience and beliefs do not align with Mr. Alexenberg’s. For example, I do not believe that the dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is merely a rent dispute. I do not think the occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory on the West Bank and Gaza is right or legitimate especially given what I’ve learned are Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and making the world a better place.
Mr. Alexenberg does not mention the occupation at all. The checkpoints, humiliation, loss of home, loss of timely healthcare are what I saw. There has been terrible violence from all sides. He does not mention the permanent settlements established by Israel on Palestinian land which slowly but surely make it very difficult to create an equal Palestinian state. He does not mention that many Palestinian men have been jailed.
On one of our first days on the trip there were explanations for me of some of the anger and a lot of the fear that I know I would experience if I lived in Israel or Palestine. In the morning, we visited Yad Vashem, a museum of the Holocaust, and in the afternoon we visited a demolished Palestinian village, Lifta. Each explained the strong feelings—horror, fear, and anger—to me of both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian. I know I would want safety above all else if I’d experienced the Holocaust, and I would hate to lose my home and way of life on the other hand.
Of course, I am scared by the anti-Semitism that seems to be sweeping the United States. I think we can find a great deal of blame everywhere as this conflict in the Middle East is not an easily solved peace puzzle as Mr. Alexenberg suggested. I just hope we have the courage of some of the people we met in Israel and Palestine who work together to solve these issues.
Your letter highlights an inherent flaw in papers such as the Herald. Its local editors no doubt make a valiant effort. We suspect, though, that the workload imposed on them by their corporate overlords precludes their addressing the issues you bring up. One also has to wonder: if they had the time, would they have the freedom to scratch up the information missing from Mr. Alexenberg’s piece?