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Creating a conversation the world will hear

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Wednesday, 30 September, 2009

Raanan Paz reflects on his meeting with The Elders and argues that "someone must speak up across the globe."

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to speak with The Elders. I came as a representative of Israeli society. Most Israelis feel that people around the world do not understand that Israeli society suffers as well because of the conflict. I am not making a comparison between the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians; all I can say is that both sides suffer from the conflict.

We met in the King David hotel in Jerusalem in a small room. I was very excited and felt that I was given a chance to let my voice be heard. I was disappointed that the media didn't give much attention to The Elders visit in Israel. I guess it has a connection for things that few of the elders have said before. In Israel many people see The Elders as a group who support the Palestinian side only.

To be honest, in some way I felt that a few of the representatives of The Elders came to this meeting just as a symbolic act, and not really to pay attention to the things that we said. I wished that this meeting would be as important to them as much as it was for me.

I am not demanding anything from anyone but I believe that this meeting could have been more effective for The Elders and for us, Israelis, if we had more time and if we were asked more questions. There were five Israelis in this meeting - each one of us got his chance to speak for few minutes. The meeting was good but I am not sure how effective it really was. I wish we could have had more of a conversation and not just a brief meeting.

The only thing the media did report was what Desmond Tutu said after visiting Israel. In the news they said that he blamed the Holocaust for the suffering of the Palestinians. I don’t know if he said so or not but if he did then I am disappointed.

I agree that in 1948 it was the wrong thing to do banish the Palestinians out of their land. I agree that the Palestinians should get a land of their own and we should live in peace. I agree that Palestinians are not equal in Israel and we should change it. But I do not agree that the Holocaust is the reason for the Palestinians suffering.

Both of my grandparents were the only one from their huge family who survived the Holocaust. They had no one left in the world and they fought to survive. As long as the terror attacks continue and there will be rockets flying toward Sderot and Ashkelon from Gaza, Israel must protect herself because no one else will do it for her. I do not believe in war but I do believe I have to protect my country, my friends, my family and myself.

My recommendation for the next time that The Elders would like to listen to representatives from society they should take Israelis and Palestinians into the same room and create a real conversation.

Someone must speak up across the globe. We should give the Palestinians independence and Palestinians must stop the terror attacks and understand that Israelis also have rights for this land, and we can live on the same land in peace. I thank The Elders for giving me the opportunity to let my voice be heard, and I thank you for reading it.

Raanan Paz is 26 years old. He grew up in Moshav Orot, near Ashdod, and served as a paratrooper in the Orev Brigade of the IDF. Raanan is an actor, playwright and musician. He lives in Tel Aviv.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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