Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Living in a Zionist community in America during the second intifada, I was deeply connected to the Israeli’ s hurt and loss during this time. It was not uncommon to have an activity in camp dedicated to writing condolence letters to families affected by terrorist attacks or making bracelets for soldiers in the IDF. When a suicide bomber killed innocent bystanders I not only sympathized with the Israelis, but I felt their pain as if it were my own. Because of my Jewish heritage, Israel was more than a distant country; it was home. It was a Jewish state, a place where after centuries of persecution Jews could be safe.
That is why, as the bus pulled up to Rawabi and I saw the Palestinian flag waving over the empty city, I cringed. Rawabi is the first planned city in the West Bank. Not too far from Ramallah, this giant complex is aimed towards housing middle class Palestinians and garnering space for Palestinian business. I cringed not because I do not believe in housing and business. But, because of the emotions that the flag evoked. That flag, was the same flag that was waved in unison with ideas of hate and menace during the second intifada. The same flag that was raised with triumph while burning the Israeli and American flags. However, symbols are often misused. For instance the Swastika, which literally means “well-being” in Sanskrit, in western culture is assumed to connote anti-Semitism and Nazi supremacy.
Symbols can change their meaning, which is why I was glad to see the Palestinian flag wave over Rawabi. Rawabi is a sign of hope within a region that is filled with chaos. While it is not a solution to the conflict, it demonstrates an ability to seek normalcy and prosperity in tumultuous times. Rawabi has and will provide jobs and stimulate the economy, which in turn will calm people, hopefully reducing a fraction of the violence in the region. Because of Rawabi, the Palestinian flag no longer insights hatred, rather it gives me hope.
Yvette Dean is a member of the 2014 Ibrahim cohort.