One of these borders has been dominating much of the news coming from the Middle East. The other is not in the news at all. One features a smart fence with an area cleared away to be an open field of fire, army command posts with the weapons needed to cover those open fields of fire, and regular army patrols. The other has none of that. Indeed, one has to be shown where the actual border is located.
On the other side of the militarized border there’s an organization dedicated to the elimination of those who live on the other side. On the other side of the quiet border is a nation at peace with the country on the other side. So, no one writes about this border.
Recently, my wife Suzanne and I had the opportunity to see both of these borders. The contrast could not have been more striking.
The first, of course, is Israel’s border with Hamas and the Gaza Strip. The other is Israel’s “South” near Kibbutz Lotan with Jordan. Both borders have a majority Sunni Muslim population on the other side facing Israel. If one wants to find “moderate” Muslims brave enough to criticize the jihadists, they run the government of Jordan.
Hamas has used a significant part of its resources to build rockets and a massive tunnel network to attack Israel. Their tunnel network doesn’t serve the purpose of being shelters when Israel retaliates against those who launch the rockets. Not even air raid sirens have been put in place.
Jordan devotes a good part of its meager resources without any fanfare to tend to large numbers of refugees, many of them Christian, from Iraq and Syria. Also, Jordan long ago extended its citizenship to Palestinians living there. A large majority of Palestinians have accepted this generous offer—no other Arab state has done that for their Palestinian Arab Muslim brothers.
We spent quite a bit of time staying at various kibbutzim near the Gaza border. They’ve adapted to the lurking murderous threat on the other side. Several years ago, those kibbutzim were facing an existential crisis as residents were leaving rather than deal with potential rockets dropping out of the sky.
Now, the “sons of the kibbutzim” are returning. We noticed shelters everywhere and a great deal of new housing—all old and new buildings have been designed to survive rocket attacks. One of our favorite scenes was a children’s playground in one kibbutz only 500 meters from Gaza. We saw a slide set up so that as children left it they could readily go into a shelter just a few meters away and that shelter was decorated with a painting of Winnie the Pooh.
While in that region, we were taken to a high vantage point set up with a memorial to an Israeli soldier who died some time ago in a helicopter crash. There were green fields with ripe crops stretching as far as the eye could see—except in Gaza.
Along the “South’s” border with Israel, we got to see what Israelis could do with the Negev. But, we also noticed on the other side some areas of green where kibbutz residents had quietly worked with their neighbors to develop that land. Sadly, we also saw residential areas on Jordan’s side where the folks there had refused those quiet offers of assistance. Those areas were much poorer
Why can’t Hamas demilitarize and accept living with their Israeli neighbors? They could live then along a peaceful border. Their neighbors wouldn’t have to have air raid sirens and shelters. Gazans would no longer have to deal with Israeli retaliations. The neighbors could attend the weddings on each side as they used to before Gaza went rogue.