Two sides to every story

Ryan Loew

Students share views on conflict, life in Israel

Credit: johnny b

Credit: johnny b

Duroub Yacoub, junior international relations major, has seen a friend shot to death, witnessed buildings being bombed and thrown rocks at tanks.


Quick facts

Capital: Jerusalem

Population: 6,199,008

Palestinian refugees in 1948: 826,000

Palestinian refugees in 2001: 4,128,456

Israel in the only democracy in the Middle East

-sources: CIA World Factbook,


Yacoub, a Palestinian, has witnessed firsthand the Israel/Palestine conflict while living in Mahla, a village outside of Jerusalem, for 19 years before coming to Kent State.

“I never saw tanks until 2000,” she said. “You would see F-16’s fly over and shoot at a big building. There would be families in there.”

Carly Saham, junior broadcast news major, visited Israel this month as a part of a “birthright trip” sponsored by Hillel, a Jewish community center serving Kent State, the University of Akron and Hiram College.

“As a journalist, or anyone in the media, it’s important to see both sides of the story,” Saham said. “Everyone thinks Israel is this big warzone, but in reality it has this big soft side.”

Saham was in Israel during the election of the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. On her ten day tour, she said she saw no signs of conflict.

“I didn’t see anything. Zero,” Saham said. “I did not see any violence while I was there. I felt safer in Israel than I do here in the United States or if I were to go to downtown Cleveland.”

In what many saw as a sign of resurrected peace efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon congratulated Abbas on his win. Last Tuesday, however, as Abbas was in Gaza City to encourage Palestinian militants to stop attacks against Israelis, a Hamas suicide bomber ignited a blast in the city. The explosion wounded five Israelis, and Sharon suspended talks with Palestinian security officials.

Such developments are only the latest in over a century of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

In 1947, the United Nations seized control of Palestine, and a year later divided the country into a Jewish country and an Arab country. That same year, 1948, the State of Israel was declared. The rest is history, a violent one.

Yacoub said her grandparents were forced from their home by Jewish settlers in 1948, leaving with nothing but the key to their house.

“They left all their clothes, their jewelry,” Yacoub said. “They thought they could go back,”

Because her family is Palestinian, Yacoub said they are still not allowed back in their old neighborhood.

“I could go there because I am an American, but anyone from my family, they are not allowed there,” Yacoub said.

Violence has been a significant part of Yacoub’s life.

Israeli troops, she said, opened fire at her school in an alleged attempt to rout out terror suspects, killing innocent people in the process.

“They would shoot gas inside, and when we were running out of the school, they would start shooting,” Yacoub said.

“My friend died between my arms,” Yacoub said. “I saw her blood. It was too much. And people would die every day. That was a normal thing.”

In response to violence, Yacoub said she and other students would be outraged.

“Students would get angry, leave school and protest, throw rocks,” Yacoub said. “A lot of kids would get shot and die. We’re looking at kids between the ages of 10, 11, 12 and 13.”

Saham said people often don’t look at the Israeli soldier side of the story.

“A lot of Israelis would tell you that you’ve got to have tough skin,” Saham said. “If you don’t have tough skin you’ll get eaten up.”

Young adults, she said, are required to serve in the army after completing high school.

“I think a lot of the time we take for granted things in life,” Saham said. “But when you’re in Israel and in the army, you try to appreciate everything because it’s a very different way of life.

“Being in Israel has changed me,” Saham said. “A lot of people come back and say ‘Israel changed me and I don’t know why.’ It made me appreciate everything now.”

Israel, she said, is often confused by most Americans as a war-torn country with no hope for peace.

While Yacoub witnessed the violence first hand, she said both sides of the conflict are wrong for using violence.

“From the Israel side it’s sad too,” Yacoub said. “A suicide bomber would attack a bus, and imagine, these are kids, innocent people. I don’t think Hamas is doing what’s right. When they bomb they’re killing innocent people.

“It’s sad, why can’t people just live in peace? If there could just be peace that would be awesome.”