ISRAEL - PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

The tale of soldier Shalit

This video was released on YouTube by the Israeli Consulate in New York. The children are reading a story that was written by Gilad Shalit, a soldier who has been held by Hamas since his kidnap in 2006. Written when he was eleven, the story is a tale of a fish and a shark making friends. There's an obvious comparison to be drawn with the Israel-Palestine conflict, although each camp will no doubt interpret it differently.

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This video was released on YouTube by the Israeli Consulate in New York. The children are reading a story that was written by Gilad Shalit, a soldier who has been held by Hamas since his kidnap in 2006. Written when he was eleven, the story is a tale of a fish and a shark making friends. There's an obvious comparison to be drawn with the Israel-Palestine conflict, although each camp will no doubt interpret it differently.

According to the Consul for Media and Public Affairs, the purpose of the video is to "raise awareness of this humanitarian issue in the United States and around the world. A multiethnic selection of students reading this story of peace and reconciliation sends a powerful message that cannot be ignored".

"The fish and the shark will never be friends"

Roi Ben-Yehuda is one of our Observers for Israel.

I find both the story and the video to be really interesting. The story conveys a type of innocence, optimism, imagination, sweetness, and child-like naiveté that is beautiful.

I think, given what happened to the author eight years after writing this story, we naturally all assume that Shalit/the Israelis are represented in the story by the fish and the Palestinians by the shark. And yet what is interesting is that, if you were to read this story to a group of Palestinian children, they would identify themselves with the fish and the Israelis with the shark. In a way, this is one of the main problems in the Arab-Israeli conflict: both people see themselves as helpless fish fighting against ruthless sharks.

I also found it interesting that there is a religious messianic element to the tale: in the Jewish tradition it is said that when the Messiah arrives the world will be radically transformed to the degree that swords will be turned into ploughshares [the working part of a plough; a biblical term], and the wolves shall dwell with the lamb. In this story, instead of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, we have the shark playing with the fish.

Yet such Utopianism is what makes this tale so very painful: reading this story with grown-up eyes, we know that the fish and shark will never be friends. At the end of the story with its happy ending, realism kicks in. We see a picture of Shalit with a caption that says: "Two Years have passed and Gilad Shalit is still held in captivity". It seems that the shark, whoever he may be, has in the end eaten the fish.

Finally, what I found peculiar and somewhat distasteful about the video is the fact that it is made for Americans. Why are the kids American and not Israelis and Palestinians? It seems to me that this is a video that should have Israeli and Palestinian kids in it. They should be the ones reading the story. They should be the ones watching this video. Why is this the business of the Israeli consulate in NY? Is the Shalit story really lacking in awareness?

It's obvious that this has to do with image as with anything else. Israel is trying hard to win the minds and hearts of the American public. If they could only put this type of creative energy into coexistence at home, maybe the shark could eventually play with the fish."