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Cultural Distance: Behind The Gaza Conflict

By: Mariana Souza

Cultural differences that prevent communication and understanding between people within the same borders, people that are geographically close, happen more than often. People usually think of “nations” as geopolitical classifications, but in reality it is referred to as the groups of people sharing the same language and culture, regardless of the address.

Once my old class was challenged by our Bible teacher to think about the society we live in, and to separate in to categories who we consider as “we” or “they”. The interesting part is that my classmates and I started the list pretty broad, writing down stuff like “humans”. But as the list went on, it got narrow. Our categories became each and every time more individualistic. It was just so easy to classify someone as “they”.

If you have ever been to Israel, you saw how distant the Jews and the Muslims are. There are exceptions, of course. But it is the major reality. The Wailing Wall is a short walk-distance away from a big Muslim market, yet you don’t see any mixing up. They only have one interest in common, which is Israel. But they definitely don’t want to share it.

The Gaza Conflict has been receiving a lot of attention since the start of the month. Deciding who is right and who is wrong is a struggle. “Neither” sounds reasonable. Both the Jews and the Muslims have always been victims of persecution and premature judgement amongst themselves and from other people. It is like history repeats itself, only the characters’ roles change. One day the Muslims are the villains, the next one it is the Israelis. However, everyday their innocent people carry a burden that has been imposed upon them, having to cope with people judging their every move and blaming them for the mistakes and actions of their superiors.

Whether we want it or not, each of us belong to a nation and everyone possesses the right for self-defense. But it is important to consider that “they” have the same right to live as “we” do.

Recognising where we and our cultural fit in the perspective of the broader world expands our understanding of the limits of our own cultural context. Sometimes, we fail to see beyond our experience and fail to realize the vast array of cultural differences. It is not about agreeing with everything everyone says, but being accepting of different opinions and realities. Challenging yourself to reach out to people in love and peace far beyond the bounds of your own cultural zone.

As we divide people in categories, we realize that for us, they are just “them”, but for them, “they” refers to us. So embrace other cultures, learn about them, make new friends, be compassionate about others. For a second, forget about divisions. That’s much healthier than judging someone by their appearance and customs. Much better than fighting. Don’t be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Be pro-peace and start it at your community. Make the world your community, and find yourself in it.

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