Two Families Under the Gun

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The Search for Common Ground
Fayez doesn't like to talk politics. But under prodding he says he once believed that "most of the Jews wanted peace." Some Israelis, he believed, were convinced that if they wanted to live in peace, they would have to withdraw from the occupied territories. Now he is despondent: "The Israelis are humiliating and insulting us at every moment. Peace is becoming difficult, because blood has been shed on both sides." Dreams of a normal life now seem self-indulgent. "The Israelis don't trust us anymore, and of course we don't trust them. My dream now is only to get a job." Fayez won't emigrate: "I'm suffering. But this is the price I pay for being a Palestinian."

The Simons know what life must be like for people like the Zeidans. "I really feel sorry for the Palestinians," says Orly. "They're miserable." But especially since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected the peace proposals that Bill Clinton and then Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak offered at Camp David in 2000, that sympathy has been colored by wariness and anger. "The Palestinians have no real recognition of the right of the Jewish people to have a state and a peaceful and secure life," says Yoav. The Simons wish Arafat had more guts. Even if he were to make a deal now, they aren't sure they would trust him. Orly chides the Palestinian Authority for squandering the aid it has received, instead of constructing hospitals, schools and factories. But she also thinks that if they had real democratic rights, "most Palestinians would ask to end this conflict. Everyone wants a peaceful life."

Not all of Orly's thoughts are so mild. "When I see Arabs in the mall, I feel angry that they can wander around freely without being intimidated and I can't," she says. "Sometimes I say to myself, Why aren't they suffering from terror attacks? I know there's bombardment of their towns, but there is no terror." Yoav says, "I have rage, I have anger, but I don't have any will for revenge. I don't see the benefit of it." Nor does he approve of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's attempt to beat the Palestinians into submission. "The Israeli military activity doesn't give an answer to the conflict. We have to get rid of the territories and end the occupation." Orly thinks a desire to change course is bubbling up from the bottom of Israeli society, but she fears it won't amount to anything productive. "Neither on our side nor theirs is there a leader brave enough to take heroic decisions of historic importance," she says. "That's why I have no hope. We'll have wars and bloodshed that could continue for dozens of years."

If that bleak assessment is right, the task of making peace will fall to the next generation. What do the children think? Mariana, the Zeidans' fourth-grader, says, "If I said I don't get scared by the tanks, I would be lying. But I believe there will be peace, and a state for the Israelis and a state for the Palestinians." Neta, the Simons' 5-year-old, recently asked her mom if the Palestinian gunmen she was watching on TV had children. Orly said they did. "I want to look them in the eyes," said Neta. The way her mother sees it, the child's instinct is not to hate, but to understand.

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