Thursday, June 27, 2013

Welcome to My Neighborhood

“Welcome to my neighborhood.” These were the words our tour guide, Shai, spoke as we stood in the Golan Heights of Israel, looking down on Syria. The first time he said this phrase, he had just finished describing the civil war that is currently taking place directly over the border. He repeated the phrase again, after explaining that he could often hear bombs and gun fire throughout the night. And, again, he repeated it after claiming that there are people dying a few miles from his home, and no one is doing anything about it. 

Shai lives in Israel, right along the border of Syria. Seeing “mushroom clouds,” as he described it, is not an unfamiliar sight for him. Each of these clouds signifies the explosion of a bomb --- a bomb that could (and often does) kill hundreds at a time. 

“Welcome to my neighborhood.” In the north of California, I grew up falling asleep with clear skies above me. There were no bomb shelters lining the streets --- I didn’t know what a bomb shelter was. No casualties on a daily basis, no fear of not seeing tomorrow, no understanding of hardships. My greatest fear was oral surgery. 

“Welcome to my neighborhood,” in reference to my hometown, is usually a positive phrase. It suggests that my neighborhood is a comfortable place, and those visiting should feel free to enjoy it as well. “Welcome to my neighborhood,” in reference to the area surrounding Shai’s home, more so reveals the grim reality of this country. It suggests that the “visitors” are living in a bubble and need to acknowledge the horrifying lives of those residing in Syria. The phrase is, essentially, a wake up call to the rest of the world.

I’m not asserting that it is Israel’s sole responsibility to “do something” about the war in Syria. And I’m not asserting that it’s the U.S.’s responsibility. Rather, I hope to merely acknowledge the atrocity. I hope to communicate this truth to those back home in California. I hope to convey a simple truth, regardless of one’s political beliefs. 

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