My trip through Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey in the summer of 2000 remains one of the highlights of my life. One of the most vivid memories includes the hospitality, warmth, and passion of the people we met.
We also could see and feel the oppression.
With troops holding their weapons at the ready seemingly everywhere, it was hard to ever feel truly at peace.
With the protests in Tunisia, Jordan, and now Cairo (and in Iran in 2009), I hope for genuine peace in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, some of those behind the unrest have a more extreme fundamentalistic worldview which could lead to even less freedom and increased oppression of women.
Will these protests lead to more freedom or will they be squelched with more violence and more restrictions on freedom?
These uncertain times remind us of those who fought for freedom in our country, but they also remind us how rare and fragile freedom truly is.
An Arab from Gaza and a self-confessed member of Hamas once asked me, “How can we have peace?” I though it was a strange question coming from a terrorist. When I asked him if he was ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist, he answered, “There is no such country as ‘Israel’; there is only Palestine, my country.” That’s why negotiating peace with Hamas or any other Arab faction is a fool’s errand. In this man’s mind, Israel’s right to exist is not an issue because there is no Israel; there is just a large, well-armed group of space-occupying Jewish squatters, who deserve death. Furthermore, every U.S. president keeps saying the same mantra, “They [Palestinian Authority] must recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Correction; they must first recognize that Israel exists. Actually, somebody forgot to tell all of the politicians that we Jews don’t need their permission to exist as a nation; G-d gave that to us at Mount Sinai.