We've heard the story of the oppressor and the victim—the hero and the villain. With each entity comes the perception of strength and vulnerability as well as greed and necessity. This is the way we hear about Eretz Yisrael from its critics. And yet, someone once told me that there is a multiplicity of narratives that exist within the Arab-Israeli conflict. While I've grown to recognize the complexities of what seems like an endless battle of finger-pointing and emotional distress with a large dose of mistrust and cultural differences, I have also realized what can be understood quite simply: the polarization of Israel as the "victimizer" is not only flawed in its representation—it is a falsified, blind accusation leaving Israel's history and the plight of the Jewish people in the dark altogether.
During the last two days, I have had the opportunity to learn about Israel at its most vulnerable and its strongest moments in history. From the Jewish people's fight for independence in 1948 when they traveled back to their ancient homeland, motivated by their undying desire to live collectively in peace, to the strength of the state that has grown over the years represented in the Meir Mait Intelligence and Terrorism Center, in which we see the Jewish state after it has emerged as one of the greatest defenders against terrorism in the world, I have really been able to see the Jewish state in its entirety. In the words of one of our guides today who led us through the Intelligence museum, what other country lives next to "both their neighbor and their enemy?" And how, given this clear vulnerability of the history of the Jewish people, who have been subject to terror in almost every region of the world, is this community still demonized as the 'oppressor'?
In the midst of all chaos, these questions are answered and the most admirable aspects of Israel come to light, for example, the ways the people of this state have actively strived to maintain their honesty and humanity. And yet, what I admire most about Israel is a part of how its enemies seek to villainize the Jewish state. Despite its atrocities, it has conducted itself with both resilience and with poise. This is a reminder that the Jewish people's suffering has prepared them in a way so they shall never fall and its success makes the state continually unpopular. As I walked through the center, the names of all soldiers who actively died in the line of duty were engraved with only their name and the date they left our world—all genders, all people, all unanimously represented. This is the way Israel helps families remember their fallen brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncle and aunts on a domestic level. As I walked through their facility, their values of integrity, loyalty, and devotion were preserved and you could feel this through the stonewalls. Their synagogue, as the first room in the Commemorations Center, allowed for families to mourn, but also to find their hope again. When they were ready to move on, they could add the loved one's name and picture to a book after collecting all of their memories and filing them into a private room.Their composure in the midst of this conflict, despite all the brutality they continue to face, is precisely what makes Israel a villain to its strongest critics. If one should only take the time to read Israel's history and understand the state in its context, she would find that Israel could not simply be deemed the villain. To the contrary, it cannot be put in either category, for a 'hero' does not humanize the people of the state of Israel in the way it deserves.