I am an Israeli, born to Zionist British parents who moved to Israel. Like many of my contemporaries, I have followed the typical Israeli life path of schooling, army service, backpacking and then university.
Two of my favourite subjects in school were geography and history – I could stare at maps for hours – but I started my travels late. When I did start travelling, however, it struck a chord and soon became an addiction. Travel, for me, is not only a way to see other places and cultures but also a way to see ourselves differently, in the context of our new surroundings. When I left Israel to move to London, this is exactly what happened.
I didn’t leave Israel because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like most Israelis, I was used to it, I considered it routine. Every Israeli knows someone who has been affected directly or indirectly by terror and so the threat is always there. You could say I was suffering from ‘over-exposure’ – even now, I am rarely surprised by what I hear in the news.
I had not always felt this way. As a student of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I arranged a delegation to Northern Ireland to study the peace process and compare it with Israeli-Palestinian efforts. We met with politicians of both sides and visited the hotspots of the conflict; we also met with fellow students to hear their opinions and experiences.
The visit left me with mixed thoughts. The two conflicts were hard to compare – the Northern Ireland conflict was an internal struggle for the identity of the state, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be seen as a struggle between two peoples for the same territory. However, I did feel some solutions could be adapted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the main one being achieving a situation of peace and stability between the two sides in order to allow politicians to focus on peace making, while dis-incentivising the appeal of extremism.
But Israelis, like any other people, have daily issues to deal with – work, family and other concerns. Thoughts about security get pushed to the back of the mind, while we hope that the security forces will do their job to prevent any violence against civilians. Perhaps this is why the conflict is so hard to solve. As an individual, you are helpless against terror and your time is spent dealing with day-to-day life. As a result, you accept the conflict as a fact of life – thus, a burning issue becomes peripheral, part of the routine.
No, the conflict did not force me to leave – I was stuck in my job and needed a change.
Living in London for the last seven years has given me a different perspective. It has helped me understand some of the European attitudes – in a way, I think it can be termed as pity. The Europeans pity Israelis and Palestinians for the dire mess they are in, they cannot understand why the conflict is allowed a life of its own.
Now, more than 7 years later, I am planning my move back to Israel. Logically speaking, I would be better off staying in the UK – it has a better quality of life and more opportunities. So why move back?
It boils down to the ingredient that sadly fuels the conflict: emotions. It might not be a logical decision to leave, but it is an emotional decision. For me Israel deserves a second chance.
Looking forward, I am an optimist, even as far as the conflict is concerned. My hopes for the future can be found in three words that both Israelis and Palestinians require for a lasting peace – trust, trade and security. All three go hand in hand and all three will contribute in dis-incentivising the appeal of extremist ideas, on both sides of the divide.
Guy is an Israeli born to Zionist British parents who moved to Israel. Like many Israelis he completed three years of army service, and then went backpacking. In search of a break, he moved to London where he kickstarted his career and found it easier to feed his appetite for travel. After seven years abroad he is now planning to return to Israel.
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.