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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

An Israeli’s hope for dialogue

Ari Sorokin at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy Ari Sorokin.
Ari Sorokin at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy Ari Sorokin.

My name is Ari and I am a freshman who is currently undeclared, but I see myself going down the path of international relations and perhaps joining the state department.

Throughout my life, I have been taught by my family to respect and learn from other cultures and ways of life. I have traveled to over 15 countries and seen different cultures that have forever informed my outlook on life.  Despite my loyalty, patriotism and advocacy for Israel, I still have an innate curiosity about the other side.

I was raised in an environment where Islam was treated with contempt due to my family’s trauma from the various wars they lived through. It was reinforced when the Islamic State stormed the Levant in 2013, horrifying everyone with their acts of brutality that even the Taliban condemned.

Unfortunately, not much has changed since 2013 as the Saudis dismembered journalist Jamal Kashogi, Iranian “Morality Police” killed Mahsa Amini for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards and Hamas committed a Ghenghis-Khan-like massacre on Oct. 7 while their supporters in the west celebrated. 

Islamism and Jihadism are things the Islamic world must come to terms with, but thankfully I was able to separate the whole of Islam from individual Muslims because of two experiences in my life.  

When my Jewish middle school had a meeting with the local Islamic middle school, we talked about our religious similarities and played basketball. It showed me that we both wanted to have fun, socialize and laugh and were not interested in some miserable geopolitical conflict we had no control over. 

Another impactful experience was when I visited Jerusalem and saw a Muslim man rescuing stray puppies who would have died if it wasn’t for him. I have always loved dogs, currently volunteer at a humane society, and have been passionate about rescuing them.  I knew that if I had been there longer, we could have been friends due to our similar values. 

Over two million Palestinians live as Israelis, engaging in entrepreneurship, practicing medicine, educating themselves, and performing as civil servants in the Knesset. The Bedouins, an Islamic nomadic group, notably serve in the Israeli army, providing valuable insights into the desert as well as making excellent comrades. The Druze, facing historical persecution by Muslims, find far more religious freedom in Israel than in the surrounding Islamist states. 

Contrary to South Africa, where ethnic groups were legally segregated, Israel hasn’t reached such extremes in separations between Muslims and Jews to label it as an apartheid. Labeling Israel as an apartheid undermines the suffering South Africans lived through as well as ignoring peaceful coexistence of two million Palestinians, Israelis and other ethnic groups.

The media does not reveal these facts, to the point that I would not believe them if I had not been to Israel myself. This irresponsible coverage of Israel’s social and cultural diversity highlights not only the lack of journalism, but also a lack of comprehension of the complexity of history.

Wadi Attir is one of my favorite spots in Israel representing Israel’s advanced agricultural achievements accomplished by combining both Muslim and Jewish minds. Photo courtesy Ari Sorokin.

Nial Ferguson, British historian and author emphasizes that:

 “The key takeaway from history is that it is impossible to determine with certainty which historical analogy or cycle accurately applies to current events… Instead of seeking clear-cut historical parallels, it’s essential to recognize the complexity and unpredictability of historical processes… Lessons from history should focus on understanding the complexities, contingencies, and potential alternatives in the historical narrative, rather than seeking simple and deterministic patterns.” 

And while the idea of the apartheid myth is illogical, it continues to increase divisions among uneducated westerners, as well as neutralizing hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.   

Recently, a Detroit Synagogue president, Samantha Woll, was stabbed to death on Oct. 21, 2023. She contributed to the founding of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Detroit where she feasted with Syrian refugees. She is not the first to have died after living a life hoping to bring peace and she won’t be the last. 

 I believe the first step to peace is not trade negotiations, military alliances or United Nations resolutions but in reality, having a human connection with the people outside of the tribe. It is imperative for individuals to have conversations that focus less on being right, and more on getting to know one another for the content of their character rather than the sharp border on a map they are aligned to. The few experiences I have had doing so I forever cherish even if we disagreed and could not come to a consensus. 

We need to find something to talk about irrelevant from the conflict but equally intriguing. We are both children of Abraham and the Middle East, therefore we share food, humor, values, culture, music and so much more. 

Our religions share more in common with each other than either of ours share with other religions such as Christianity. When there is no Kosher food available, it is permitted for us to consume Halal food due to our dietary similarities. 

Me wearing a Keffiyeh in Nazareth after the shop owner recommended I try one on. Photo courtesy Ari Sorokin.

We both have a long history of contributing to STEM, with Jews winning a quarter of all Nobel Prizes and Muslims discovering indispensable mathematical and medical research that we take for granted today in Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate and the early Ottoman Empire.

The media has been harsh on religion recently, treating it as an antiquated and corrupt way of life. Movies and TV shows treat Muslims, Christians and Jews as harsh, authoritarian, close-minded and judgmental humans who are stuck in the past. 

While religions grapple with genuine issues, the secular world often escapes media scrutiny for rising mental health concerns, unsustainable consumerism, the dehumanization of women in hookup culture under the guise of freedom, the substitution of religious identity with ideological identities, “wokeism,” and the breakdown of nuclear families. These issues, widely deemed problematic by various religions, extend beyond Abrahamic faiths. 

Judaism preaches Tikkun Olam which is the duty of Jews to heal a broken world. We cannot do this without the help of other religions who share our values. 

I know there is always a risk to extending the hand of friendship but fear is what the terrorists that laid waste to Beeri and are inhibiting Gaza from developing want both of us to feel. Geopolitics may come in the way of progress but we can always take steps towards peace by finding common ground. 

Ari Sorokin can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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    Tori // Dec 23, 2023 at 11:59 am

    Not a single mention of the 20,000 Palestinians that have died. Until you at least acknowledge the suffering that has occurred because of Israel’s actions (as you ask us to acknowledge the suffering that has been brought to Israelis), you cannot claim that you are promoting dialogue and hope for peace and understanding and overcoming differences.

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