Hope and Normalization

Hope and Normalization

Middle class homes, newer automobiles, steady tourism and a daily flow of residents into Jerusalem were among the things we observed when we enjoyed the rare privilege of being hosted by Palestinian Police Leadership in Bethlehem this past Wednesday as part of our ADL Counter-Terrorism Mission.  Although the Christian population is declining within the neighborhood where its religion’s founder was born, there are strong indications that Palestinians in Bethlehem and in similar cities under Palestinian control are taking more responsibility for their future by living, trading, and coordinating alongside their Israeli neighbors.

The contrast between these areas, exemplified byRawabi, the model middle-class city that will eventually become home to 30,000 Palestinians, and refugee dwellings – established in 1948 by the United Nations Work and Relief Agency which still provide health, education, and food to a third generation of Palestinians numbering today approximately 1.8 million –  could not be more dramatic. It is hard to imagine how developing a spirit of responsibility for one’s fate under such conditions is possible.  Yet such a spirit is now being modeled all over Palestinian cities like Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Jericho where the annual GDP continues to rise.

Mohammed Za’eir says,I am from the city of Jenin. I want to open a market stall but the municipality isn’t letting me. Why did all the people here get permits? Because they get preferential treatment. All the people who bought from me know that I sell good merchandise, and that I give customers respect. I have four children and I just want to feed them.”

Progress is still fragile, very vulnerable to major ruptures in the security situation.  Yet more Rawabi model cities help harvest normalization.  Responsibility does indeed seed dignity.

Rabbi William Hamilton

Image: Rabbi Hamilton receives a gift from Colonel Ala Shalabi, Head of Bethlehem Police District

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