Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Syrian Peace Talks

Things seem pretty confusing at this point, so what I am writing here in this post is just the way they reflect to this average Isralei mom. I mean, I will be the first to admit that I just don't have the time to follow the news properly. But, my husband gave me a quick update on the way to the amusement park a couple of days ago (it's the Hannuka holiday, so we try to spend the week having fun with the little ones). So, basically it looks like there are news that Syria is tyring to approach Israel, offering to start peace negotiations with no preliminary conditions. And apparently, Olmert is replying in the negative.

Now, I have heard Olmert in the past, explaining on national TV why he thinks talks with Syria is a bad idea. According to what he said, Syria remains a "bad" state, or a rouge state if you like, part of the famous Bushian axis of evil or whatnot. So, he figures negotiations with Syria can't really lead anywhere, because Syria actively supports Hezbulla and Hammas, i.e. the bad terrorists, and therefore, any negotiaions are bound to fail. He is afraid that once negotiations explode, this very event is likely to start a war in our region. I now hear he has an additional argument, that the US and Europe say we shouldn't talk to the Syrians (for the same reasons).

Now, IMO, Olmert is making a big big mistake. I'm sorry, but nothing justified missing an opportunity for peace talks with Syria. Nothing does. I don't care what any other country tells us. I don't care who Assad supports. The whole Hezbulla/Hammas issue is just the kind of thing which should be discussed within the framework of negotiations. Finally, a chance to actually try and sort things out. Give Syria a ladder to get off the tall tree which they climbed. Give them back the Golan Heights, as a demilitarized zone, and make Assad's day in terms of national pride. Then, from that position, he can maybe cut off his ties with Iran and the terrorist groups. What a terrible blow this will be to Hezbulla and Hammas! Cutting off their weapon supplies route from Iran! What a great opportunity for the moderate Palestinians to finally weaken Hammas and take over their government and bring their people closer to their own State and peace too!

There is one country I know will not be happy about this. That is Lebanon of course. From what I gather, most Lebanese hate Syria because Syria thinks of Lebanon as part of the Greater Syria. I'm not an expert, but from what little talks I've had with Syrians (online of course), I take it it's a commonly shared view over there. One Syrian I talked to said something along the lines of "let's split Lebanon between us, Israel can have the south, we'll take the north". I was shocked by the way he said it, just so matter of fact. lol took a while for me to convince him that we have zero interest in taking over any part of Lebanon whatsoever. However, if this is how Syria and the Syrians see Lebanon, then I can certainly see why the Lebanese would fear a peace agreement between Syrian and Israel, something that might strengthern Syria greatly in the long run. I think this is the reason why France objects to Israel-Syrian peace talks too? not sure about that last statement, but this is what I've heard.

Well, to my Lebanese friends I can only say, again, that Israel does not want any part of Lebanon. We want a safe and peaceful border, that's all. And peace between Israel and Syria, and weakening the HA can bring us all closer to that. Who knows, following Syria, maybe Lebanon itself will enter negotiations with Israel and reach a peace agreement?

I was born back when Israel had peace with no Arab country. We grew up dreaming of peace with our neighbors. We have acheived that with Egypt and Jordan. The very thought of maybe, just maybe, reaching a state of peace with all neighboring countries sends shivers down my spine, for real. I so hope that our government will find the courage to take this historical step and negotiate with Syria.

I could go on and on with my rant, but I really need to go now. Got back from the gym not too long ago and I need a good long shower. What was I doing in the gym? well, try my new weight loss blog to see ;)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Interesting Meeting

We had an interesting meeting yesterday at MacDonald's. You can say a lot of bad things about that place but IMO it makes for a great place to meet other families with kids - international too. A couple of years ago, standing in the line at the big M, we met a wonderful family from South Korea. We got really close with them, and spend a great 2 weeks getting to know them and travelling across Israel with them.

Anyway, fast forward to yesterday... We finish having our meal, then head over to the indoors play area there, which is really nice, with tunnels and things. I sit there with my husband, and our kids (now aged 3 and almost-5) take their shoes off and get inside, not to be seen again for a while lol. No other kids there at that point, but a few minutes later, a father and his two kids show up. They're Arabs and I notice how his boys are the same age as ours. I asked him, and indeed they were 3 and 5 (and totally sweet too!). So, they get inside and the three of us are sitting there, playing with our cell phones (another international trait, I guess).

A few minutes later, my five years old, Ron, gets out of some tunnel and approaches us. "Mom, can you teach me some English please?". I figure he must have gotten real bored inside, and is looking for some attention.

"English? now? wouldn't it be better for you to play inside now?"

"But, mom, there's a boy inside and he's blocking my tunnel. I tried telling him to move, but he only knows English".

At which all three adults started laughing. You see, he couldn't even tell the difference between Arabic and English. So, the nice dad next to us tried teaching my son how to ask the kid to move, in Arabic. Quite a challenge for my boy, but by then all kids crawled out to see what the fuss was all about lol.

So we kept sitting there, the kids went back inside, and we started talking. It was a fascinating talk and it made me think about how distant we are, and how little we know about each other, when they live only 20 minutes away from where we do. There was a lot of curiosity, on both sides. About the simple things, about who we were and who they are. About what it's like living in an Arab village and a Jewish town. And also just about what it's like raising two boys of these ages.

We tried getting the boys to play together, but his sons don't know Hebrew, and our sons don't know Arabic and while they were smiling and generally friendly, there was no way for them to actually play together, due to language barriers.

Amazing, really. A family, a mirror image of our own family in some ways. The mom joined us later on btw. A mom and a dad and two boys. Eating out at MacDonald's, shopping for clothes for the kids. Living but 20 minutes apart, yes we know so little about each other's respective lives...

One thing that came up and was a prominent subject was the new Arab-Jewish school that is actually located where they live. It's a complicated issue, and one I plan on addressing in a seperate post. We are currently looking into schools, especially ones with kindergartens attached to them and this one is one of the schools are are looking into. Big issue though, lots of implications.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a link to the Arab-Jewish co-education Center.