Prospects for peace: Attempting to make sense out of tragedy

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By Samantha Otis

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite Dr. Seuss book. I don’t remember the name of it, but I remember the story, because it always made me laugh.

The book has two characters making a journey. One is travelling north, the other south, until one day they meet in the middle.

Neither one wants to step aside to let the other one pass, because each has been walking a perfectly straight course. They stand and argue, neither one willing to compromise.

Meanwhile, they argue for so long that years pass and cities and highways are built around them. And still they stand, each so sure of being right that they would rather prove a point than compromise.

I see this simple Dr. Seuss book as an amazing parallel to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fighting and bloodshed has become so ingrained in that region of the world that it has almost become habit. And like the book, for so long neither side has been willing to compromise. All this over a piece of land. 

I’ll admit that I am not exactly a fountain of knowledge when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations. What I do know is that no slab of land is worth the meaningless loss of life that both sides have suffered.

When I was sixteen and away in the U.S. at summer camp, I read a small blurb in USA Today about a Toronto girl who’d been killed while touring in Israel. That girl was a seventeen year old Canadian who was enjoying a day on the beach in Tel-Aviv when a homemade bomb exploded under her beach chair. That girl also went to my high school. Her senseless death and thousands of others make it impossible for me to understand why it has taken so long for an accord to be reached. 

Parties on both sides are unhappy with the peace treaty. The Israelis say they’ve given up too much. The Palestinians say they haven’t been given enough.

To this I can only take comfort in the fact that at least this treaty is a step in the right direction. It is not perfect, but it is a start, and to me it represents what I hope will be a new beginning in a land that is home not only to my people, but to the Palestinian people as well.

Samantha Otis served as president of the Ryerson Jewish Student Council in 1994/95.

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