Tortured by Injustice

Pat Carmeli

I am one tortured soul. Just ask anyone who knows me.

Little did I know as a Catholic school girl growing up on Long Island that one day I would be so committed to a cause that I then knew so little about. At 51, living in Cazenovia with two kids at home and two in college and a husband who travels back and forth between NY and Israel, I find myself struggling to make the pain go away. Not my pain, but the humiliation, frustration and hopelessness that afflicts many Palestinian people.

Little did I know, when in 1992 I reluctantly relocated my family to the Middle East, that the life change would come not from the move itself but from the heart-wrenching plight of the displaced, disrespected, demonized and misunderstood. That plight is now under my skin. I can't make it go away.

My return five years ago to picturesque Cazenovia provided only temporary relief. I can't shake Israel/Palestine, even though I no longer read of suicide attacks in nearby towns or take my kids to be fitted for gas masks.

I do what I can…sign online petitions, write politicians…. During the presidential campaign I stood with a sign reading: "I stand with Obama for a Palestinian State." When they visited Cazenovia, I directly appealed to Hillary and Bill Clinton to "please do everything you can to help the Palestinian people." But it was in December 2009, when US-built fighter planes were dropping their US-made bombs on the huddled masses in Gaza, that I wanted to scream and scream and make it stop.

You see, while living in Caesarea I could hear the Israeli fighter planes overhead. The sonic booms shook my house. It was frightening even though I knew we were not the target of their dreaded cargo. At home with my small children, I often wondered how other mothers, huddled with shaking, crying children coped with sounds of F16s and bombs exploding. How do they comfort their children when the house next door has been hit and families are lost beneath twisted metal and broken concrete? What do they say to their children when tanks roll down the street crushing everything in their path, or when soldiers force their way into their homes and drag out a family member…when the house shakes, not from sonic booms but from the blasts of explosives raining down from the sky?
“Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, the builders of walls, the blockade of goods, the home demolitions, tortures, uprooting of trees, destruction or outright theft of their farmlands, the uprooting of the people themselves 60 years ago – I believe that these teach hatred.”

As my awareness of the plight of the Palestinians grew, I became involved in the Israeli peace movement. I attended demonstrations (including being gassed in one), joined Palestinians harvesting their olives and helped drive a young Palestinian woman to receive cancer treatments in Israel.

My life in Israel was very comfortable. Caesarea is on the Mediterranean and home to Israel's only golf course. We had a country club and an ex-Israeli president living in the neighborhood. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was soon to move in. It was life in a bubble. When there was a suicide attack, people would quickly reach for their cell phones to check if their loved ones were OK. It was kind of like playing musical chairs - when the music stops, everybody sits and is quiet - then the music plays and the waltz around the chairs starts again.

I recall a Purim party at my children's nursery school. The kids wore hats made of newspaper. The day before seven Palestinian children had been killed. One child's hat clearly displayed the pictures of the dead children. No one seemed to notice. The games and singing went on. This macabre moment symbolized for me the disassociation that people exhibit when reality is too repugnant. I'd like to think that anyway. The alternative is that the people celebrating this holiday simply didn't value the lives of those Palestinian children the same way they value Jewish children.

Many people say that Palestinians "teach" their children to hate Jews. I believe that the Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, the builders of walls, the blockade of goods, the home demolitions, the night-time arrests, tortures, uprooting of trees, destruction or outright theft of their farmlands, the uprooting of the people themselves 60 years ago (which has never been acknowledged or remedied) - I believe that these are what teach hatred.

There are many other stories, happy and sad, during my 12 years in Israel. I would love to go back to being the lighter-hearted woman I was before this burden descended like a cloud darkening with every new e-mail detailing some recent horror or abuse. I wistfully look forward to the day when the pain goes away for so many, because when their suffering ends, hopefully mine will too.

Pat is active with CNY Working for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel [] and a volunteer ambulance driver.