November 29, 2012

Holy Land, Part two

Jessica Kumari talks to teens who living with the conflict.

Jessica: This is Abed.

Abed: This is my house. It’s more than 200 years old.

Jessica: This is Shai.

Shai: This is a mezuzah. Every time we go out, everyone would kiss it.

Jessica: And this is Yotam.

Yotam: I find it – Jerusalem – very emotional. I mean, walking around here.

Jessica: Three teens who live within a few miles of one another but whose lives are worlds apart, in what is arguably the most fought over land in the world.

Jessica: This used to be the main street?

Abed: Yeah, this used to be main street in Hebron city but as you can see now, it’s empty.

Jessica: Abed’s home is in the West Bank, one of the areas where Israel designated Palestinians could live.

Israeli soldiers stand guard at both ends of Abed’s street. At one end, making sure he is not bringing anything harmful in.

So you have to go through that every single day to get to your house?

Abed: Yes, sure. That’s true.

Jessica: At the other end, making sure he can’t get out.

Can we go?

Abed: She can go?

Soldier: You, no. She, yes.

Jessica: What should be simple, like buying groceries, can take hours. That is because Palestinians have to go through security checkpoints which are located all throughout the West Bank.

At this checkpoint, I filmed two Palestinians being turned away.

Can I go through?

Guard: Where do you want to go?

Jessica: Over there.

Guard: Where are you from?

Jessica: United States.

Guard: United States? Are you Christian?

Jessica: Do I have to answer that?

Guard: Yes.

Jessica: Most Palestinians are Muslim and wouldn’t be allowed through.

It is not just the checkpoints that make life difficult. Israel began building a wall around West Bank in 2002 as a way to prevent suicide bombers from entering. But Palestinians say it is a way to steal their land and cage them in.

Abed: We are stereotyped as terrorists and suicide bombers and everything but you came here and you saw some of the reality here.

Jessica: Life is even tougher in the Gaza Strip, another territory home to about 1.7 million Palestinians.

This area is at the heart of the latest deadly conflict with Israel. The militant group Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. It has been launching rockets into Israel for months.

Israel retaliated with air strikes. Hamas says they are fighting against the Israeli blockade, which for years has kept the Gaza Strip completely cut off from the outside world. More than half of Palestinians there live in poverty. Israel would not allow us to cross the border to go in.

Abed says something has to change.

Abed: I just want anything that leads to peace because really we’re fed up with humiliation and with violations. So we just want to achieve peace with any solution.

Jessica: Just a few miles away is where Chenozeri lives, an 18-year-old Israeli. She says negotiating with Palestinians won’t work.

Chenozeri: I can’t trust them. I wouldn’t leave my house because I can’t trust them. My brother died. He was killed, not died. And I…

Jessica: How did he die?

Chenozeri: Suicide bomb. I think every Israeli knows someone who died because it’s not unusual here.

Jessica: Chenozeri lives in a Jewish settlement, land that was set aside for Palestinians but where Jewish people began settling.

Abed: I think I didn’t take this place from anybody.

Jessica: Eighteen-year-old Shai … is also a Jewish settler.

What about the Palestinian people who say you are building homes on their land?

Shai: Maybe they have a point. We live in this country and this country, it belongs to us. Maybe certain parts of it are not, according to the whole world, but according to us this is our space, our land.

Jessica: The Palestinians want an end to these settlements and want some of their land back.

Shai says God gave this land to the Jews.

Shai: We are connected to this land in every single possible way. We live here, we were born here, our families are here, our holy places here and our religion based on this place.

Jessica: Can you raise your hand if you live on a settlement?

But settlers only make up about 10% of the Jewish population.

Yotam: If we want the state of Israel to exist, we have to remove the settlements.

Jessica: Most Israelis have similar beliefs to 17-year-old Yotam, an Israeli Jew who lives in the heart of Jerusalem.

We spoke with some settlers and they say that for the people who believe what you believe, they feel betrayed.

Yotam: I honestly believe that we do have a right on the land of Israel. We have come to the situation when we have to choose between living there and between having an independent Jewish and democratic state in Israel.

Jessica: Life in Jerusalem for teens is not that different from life in the U.S. except here, there is always the fear of an attack.

So to achieve peace, Yotam and 70% of Israelis support what is called the two-state solution.

Yotam: I understand that if I want to live in a Jewish democracy, the only way to do it is establishing two states. And that means dividing Jerusalem, removing most of the settlements, building a big wall and hopefully having peace.

Jessica: Tomorrow, we explore what it means to have two separate states and what is preventing peace in the Holy Land.


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