In only a mere 7 days, I had figured out that the issues and problems when considering the Middle East, are much more complex, and deep rooted, than what the media portrays. Everyone has a different opinion and perspective on ideas when considering the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. I also digested that there is not just one issue contributing to the conflict, and in my opinion there should be more than just one solution. You know, there may never be a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, but it does not hurt to try to allow the ethnically and culturally different groups of people to coexist in some way. That’s just my opinion…
During the week, we met with a Norwegian-Jewish musician named Louise Khan, who has been living in Tel Aviv for approximately 10 years. In her apartment, we also met with two social-grassroots activists. Jake Wetzerfeld who is a British born secular Jewish man, and Said who is a young and tan, gay Palestinian man living in Tel Aviv. Jake allowed us to view his upcoming documentary that focused on Said and three other gay Palestinian men living in Israel, and their daily struggles; when considering their lives as Palestinian men living in Israel, and their lives as gay Palestinian men. The documentary and brief discussion with Said undoubtedly hit home very quickly for me being that I do understand how it feels to be considered a pariah in what you think of as, your own country.
The documentary and discussion also made me think about and reflect on the almost non-existing LGBT community in Jamaica. I know, I know, I talk about Jamaica all of the time, but it’s disturbing to know that of because laws, and the social constructions of a country’s society, that gay men and woman have to hide their true identities. They cannot be themselves or even be free, because society is constantly reminding them that their complete self is wrong, immoral, and an abomination.In my opinion, the fact that gay Palestinian men in Israel are voicing and fighting for their rights is a mirror into greater equality for the Palestinian community and the global LGBT community. It also gives me hope when considering the rights for the secret LGBT
community in my beloved Jamaica.
During my explosive first week in the Middle East, we also visited the Bialik Regozin International School located in the Yafo section of Tel Aviv. This groundbreaking school serves the children of immigrants and refugees from over 52 different countries. I have never seen such a diverse school ever before in my life. As soon as I walked into the school, I immediately saw children who appeared to be Asian, Hispanic, and East African-all playing together harmoniously. Neither seeing nor thinking of color, creed, or ethnicity, just the way that life is supposed to be. This allowed me to realize that prejudice and racism are institutions that are taught. The sight of the children playing also made me realize more than ever, that the children are indeed the future.
What made my experience visiting this school even more dynamic and breathtaking was the fact that the Principal of the school (Eli), was very passionate about his students, employees, and most of all the fact; that he could help in delivering exceptional education to immigrant and refugee children. He elaborated on the fact that the students are taught in Hebrew because most of them speak in fragments of different languages because they don’t have a mother tongue; and that was very interesting and alarming to me.
While at the Bialik Rogozin School we also had the chance to listen to the testimony of some of the students. We met with an Eritrean 14 year old girl named Mimi and she told us that she aspires to become a medical doctor. She basically told us about her wonderful experiences as a student at the school. Afterwards, Eli told us that, more than likely Mimi will never become a medical doctor, and I almost began to cry. As a child, I was always taught that with hard work and dedication, I can achieve anything that I put my mind to. Just knowing that a child has goals and aspirations, and because of citizenship status, that child can be denied the right to a higher education.
Jessica Coke is a member of the 2015 Ibrahim cohort.