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What You Will Do

An American on a Fulbright Fellowship in Jerusalem works through his misguided attempts to reconcile the differences between the Israelis and Palestinians. (Ploughshares's Emerging Writer Contest Winner for Nonfiction):

"There is one more layer of security: another soldier behind very thick glass. He will also see your passport and smile. Welcome to Israel, he will say to you, and you will be happy. Once through, you will turn to your friend and say That was the worst and he will agree. You will both shake your heads and imagine what the experience must be like for people who go through this every day, like the old woman with the green headscarf and the many bags. I can’t imagine, you will say to each other, quite truthfully. This comment will seem to you magnanimous and large of spirit. This consideration will allow you to disregard your unmanageable guilt, the futile wrestling over your substantial privilege, the purposelessness of your displeasure in the middle of it all. It will feel as though you deserve to exercise this privilege maybe a bit more than the kind of Americans who might go through and not empathize with the old woman with the green headscarf and the many bags. And besides, you will reason, this state of affairs was not created by you, nor can it be changed by you alone. Your awareness of it, then, will seem particularly admirable. This, again, will help to alleviate your guilt."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5281 words)