It’s really difficult talking about the Middle East without mentioning the conflict in Palestine. The word conflict really puts it lightly. It’s a stage beyond conflict. It’s a state of pain, confusion and suffering. I have to admit it’s an emotional subject for me and it’s one that I don’t really voice very often because it’s draining and discussing it doesn’t lead to much. When I put together favourite cities from the Middle East post, I was conflicted whether t even include Israel on the list of countries and I thought I had to be politically natural because this is a travel blog and I can’t deny maps even if those maps are reducing Palestine year after year (refer to image below). Later when I published my neutral post, I received a private comment telling me that I shouldn’t have put a slash between Palestine& Israel because “Israel doesn't exist”.
The comment gave me conflicting emotions. On one hand as an Arab Muslim, I am very pro Palestine and being around Palestinian immigrants in Saudi, who told me about their grandparents’ homes they lost and the travel documents they use instead of real passports, has shaped the way I looked at things. On the other hand, I can’t deny the existence of the people there who identify as Israelis even though I am with the belief that the Zionist government forced it’s way in (Read on: Balfour Declaration). You can also see how the map of the land shifted.
The past few years, “Israel” started showing up as a holiday destination and I have been seeing more adverts than ever before. Suddenly, it’s this new heaven within the Middle East, where Westerners can feel at home with a mild taste of the Middle East. The PR has really changed the image from a war zone to a holiday destination with travel videos of beaches and fun stuff started also popping up and it felt like looking at two parallel worlds: Happy Israel, where all the fun happens, and miserable Palestine, where it’s just fighting and complaining. Famous storytellers or dare I say “influencers” like Nas Daily, who is an Arab by bloodline, but identifies as Israeli also contributed a lot to this narrative. I don’t agree with all his content, but he tries to show both sides from his own perspective.
With my frequent travels, I encountered more and more people who are going to the occupied parts of Palestine known as Israel and everyone told me their stories. Some people loved that part and loved the beach, the “Israeli” food, which is just the usual food from the Levant. Some people were outraged and so on. It was not only an emotion. It was a series of thought and experiences that I listened to with no desire to go to that land that you can’t even name without an argument. I am not even allowed to go there with my Saudi passport, so to me it was just little stories that broke my heart.
Lately, my British Muslim friends started going to “Jerusalem” and since everyone accepts the name of the city without a political argument that is what the trip has been called without a mention that when they go they officially accept Israel is the governing and regulating body there because they go through their customs, get their visas and pay taxes to them. At the same time, the regular everyday people living there -however they want to identify- are in need of that tourism and exposure.
All of this continues to leave me conflicted because I can’t deny that there are two countries on the same land. My only issue is the apartheid state of injustice and inequality. It is difficult, but that was my attempt to share my view on the subject without upsetting too many people. All my heart wants is agreed upon justice and peace for all that are involved.