But she meant well. It was a roast meat meal cooked on a spit which, when it took its full course disabled me in a hotel in Bangladesh two weeks later. Her two small boys hung around in the back of the stall. No one else had come near her stall all day and she was desperate. A Russian Jew, she had emigrated to Israel, ironically to avoid the racism of her home town. Jews were not welcome. Sadly in her new home of Tel Aviv single Russian mothers were not welcome and she had been ostracised by the people she had spent a lifetime yearning to join. Her little food stall, one of many on the beach front, was rapidly collapsing for want of patronage. She and her plight come quickly to mind whenever the mess with Israel and her Palestinian neighbours flares up. There is a vicious irony in her story, given Israel is almost wholly made up of a Jewish diaspora who all yearned for the same thing this woman did. Another group of people come to mind as well. Walking into Bethlehem from Jerusalem I crossed the border into Palestine (more difficult to get through the Israeli military than the return trip – I have never figured that one out) I walked for kilometers among excited Palestinians who were rapidly building their new state having been granted independence a year or so earlier. Houses and roads rapidly rising, the sound of hammering and sawing, ditches for cables and power being dug, new roads being carved out of the hills, concrete being poured – it was an energetic building site full of builders who wanted to wave at us as we walked past and who wanted to welcome us to their state, and town. I wonder if the Russian Jew hung around and if things got better for her (and if her kitchen hygiene got sorted out!!). Or if she headed back to Russia. I wonder too if the Palestinians on the winding road to Bethlehem have got all the services they were gleefully expecting. Bother the Russian migrant and the Palestinians wrote their own stories about how complex that part ofthe world is. But both of them also powerfully and simply underscored the fact that on both sides of the fence (even the concrete ones) we all want the same things – peace and security for ourselves and our children. And their children. In the case of Gaza I hope the political forces that hide behind the communities on both sides of the divide can get this fratracide sorted out before it ruins any more lives being lived in simple hope.
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