Far from where we sleep and eat, far from this solitary bubble of safety that we call home, there are conflicts that span far beyond right versus wrong, good versus bad. They span across generations and generations of people who seem to be stuck in an endless spiral of conflict upon conflict. The Israel-Palestine conflict, officially starting in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, encompasses four generations riddled by warfare and violence, but there is much more than that. It is four generations that, in spite of this hopeless abyss of death, have kept their arms open to embrace the opportunity to forgive and end the conflict.
With each new president or new foreign policy here, in the United States, new delegates are sent out to try and comprehend a situation that they have no way to relate to; that is as foreign to them as war and violence is to us.
It is a situation far different from what we call a war. It is a conflict that, after four generations, has just now gotten to a point where both sides recognize the final goal that they wish to achieve. It is a conflict that, after countless deaths, has just now convinced people that they must have two separate nations, for two people that are different in just about everything. Far from there, here, we see the news, and we see peace talks that seem to be advancing, but never quite get to the end. And far from here, there are people, just like us, whose daily lives are shaped around the conflict, who have their own ideas and their own viewpoints about this conflict.
Having lived in Israel her whole life, Rivka Barg has a viewpoint wholly different than any we can ever hope to achieve. Since her birth, Israel has been plagued by fighting and death. From our viewpoint, this seems entirely a war, but to them it is much more. It is a conflict that has affected generation after generation, and it is just from the viewpoint of the people living it that we can get an accurate understanding of whether or not the end to the conflict is being approached.
Q: …do you prefer this [Israel-Palestine situation] to be called a conflict or a war? What is the term you prefer?
…[Question was asserted multiple times, but remained the same]
BARG: Yeah, it’s a conflict, definitely…war is not exactly the situation. There is a conflict, yes.
Q: What hopes do you see for a close to the conflict? A timely close? So in the near future?
… [Question was restated and asserted multiple times, but remained the same]
BARG: I wish I could tell you yes, because basically for many years I believed if the two sides sent a representative, disconnected from any religious party, on both sides, it would make life easier…that was for many years, I thought there was a chance of solving the conflict.
Q: But now you don’t see it that way?
BARG: But the problem is that the situation has been like this for so long, it’s like one step forward, two steps back, the problem with the—
Lets put it like this, I think that if the Palestinians [and Israelis] were left on their own to solve the problem, with no one from outside, maybe we could somehow solve it. As long as too many forces are involved, and everyone is using it [the situation and negotiations] for different purposes, then until the two parties are ready to solve it on their own, it will not happen.
The problem is that the world is becoming more extreme. This is to me, but I am not a politician, I feel that it is a conflict between—
It’s not that there is one wrong and one right side, the situation [is one] where the two parties have a plan, and they want to act out their plan—
The point is to me that we have to come to some sort of compromise, and that should end the problem—
The first problem was that they recognize the nation.
If it was just between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then maybe, but unfortunately now there are too many forces, and it’s a little bit harder, because they are steering the conflict every time there is a time for it to settle down, and it’s very—
As you know, they are always getting more extreme.
Q: Yes, yes
BARG: I am not sure that there is going to.
Unfortunately, very unfortunately, because for years I thought that the issue would be solved, but all the efforts that were done since the Oslo Agreement—
The big problem is those who are in power, they need to be realistic enough to realize that no one is going to win what they want and we need to settle for something different…they do not give enough enough power to the people who would like to solve the conflict…
Q: Do you think that Obama and other countries sending delegates has helped, or has it proved more destructive than constructive?
BARG: First of all depends who. In a way some of them helped, but the point is that they can be helpful. But I think that whoever is going to help has to be realistic about what the situation is, so if you always put a timetable of say a year, or something like that, you are actually not helping.
Q: So Obama has put, from what I’ve heard—
BARG: Yes, he said that we wanted to freeze the billage [money flow etc.] or something, all these things, I don’t think they were bad intention or something, I think it was because, well of not being familiar enough. The problem is in every—
It’s a fight between two peoples, so it is not always rational; there’s always the emotional, and the different perspectives.
Q: Yes, of course
BARG: So the style is also important. It is not only what you say or what you do, but rather how you say, how you do… …I tell you…the Israeli which was the most right-wing party, even they said before the elections that there should be two states for the two people…it’s a really big step.…
Q: Do see more hope in the generation of your grand-children? Do you see more hope in them resolving the conflict, if it were to continue, which hopefully it does not, but do you see more hope since they have grown up—well, since they’re growing up in a time where more people want to solve it?
BARG: Well, actually when my eldest son was born—he was born during the Yom Kippur War—so we said, ‘maybe your son never has to see the army’, and that was many years ago. I really wish to say that I hope they will be smarter enough, so that they will have smarter leaders, or more courageous—
But I really—going back to the point, you cannot connect the conflict to something you are not related to, and you must understand that there is a conflict between Islam and the West, doesn’t matter if you like it or no, but these are two cultures that are pushing to be completely different, and now you are seeing more and more countries from the Islam that are declaring it.
The point is that, if this issue, this conflict of the West and the Islam in general, is not solved, I think that there will be enough outside forces to steer the situation here and not let it be solved. For the situation here to be solved, it is either that many of the countries around us, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, they are so uncomfortable about what is happening in other parts, that they will agree in a way to help to settle the conflict. The real problem is that they make it all so shaky…but it is a democracy, so whatever anyone signs it is an obligation for the next government, whether they like it or not…not necessarily the situation where you have a non-democratic regime, so whoever comes next [is] not necessarily going to accept whatever was achieved before…I do want you to understand that it is not a conflict between wrong and right…we need to come to some sort of compromise. I don’t think that one side is going to win whatever they want. We are just, as they say here, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
*Note: Interviewee sometimes left sentences uncompleted, and begun new thoughts. This is marked by a dash (–). Places where part of the interview is not included is marked by an ellipses (…).