My sister and I grew up in a small settlement surrounded by Arab villages in the disputed West Bank. We have ended up, however, in very different places.
I am currently pursuing a PhD in social psychology, studying the science of moral understanding and how it can be leveraged to bridge divides. My sister is an activist and full-time employee at an Israeli organization that strictly opposes personal relationships, especially romantic ones, between Jews and non-Jews.
My research focuses on bridging divides, but I am somewhat at a loss for how to traverse the widening gulf between my sister and me. She faces a similar dilemma — she is becoming increasingly (in)famous in Israel for her rhetoric against intermarriage while her own sister is … marrying someone who is not Jewish.
Conflict, of one form or another, has defined our entire lives. Our family moved from the United States to a settlement in the West Bank when I was five. We used to stop by Palestinian watermelon stands on our way back from Jerusalem. My brother became friends with the Arab workers who built our home.
At the turn of the millennium, everything changed and this sense of peaceful coexistence was gone. Riots broke out in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. My father bought bullet-proof vests for us to wear when we had to travel that same road to Jerusalem. The watermelon stands were gone. In their place, children threw rocks at cars that drove by. Two teenagers from our town went for a hike and never returned. Their bodies were found in a cave, mutilated beyond recognition. We grieved, then grew angry. I was keenly aware of the Jewish side of the conflict: We were the rightful occupants of the land; they were our enemy. We were righteous; they were evil.
As a child I was unschooled. My mother was your typical “hippie liberal all-natural health nut” when we lived in the United States. Over time, however, my mother, and the rest of my family, became less and less liberal.
At 15, I enrolled myself into a Jerusalem high school. The narratives in my classes conflicted with my political and religious upbringing. I began to understand there were two sides to the story. After high school, I worked at a store where my closest friend was Palestinian. …….