Conflict in Israel

Sociolinguistics Series: Part 46

Language is a powerful tool


On Sunday, we went to the West Bank. Our guide was an Arab-Israeli by the name of Josh Koonin; he led our group into the West Bank because he knew he looked Arab enough that he would be allowed through the checkpoints.

At first, I was rubbed the wrong way about the checkpoints. However, when Koonin explained that the checkpoints are really there for everyone's safety, I understood a little better; people who looked too Jewish might not be welcomed in the West Bank, given the history of wars and illegal settlements, so the border is there to protect both Palestinians from Israelis and Israelis from Palestinians. It's a very sad way to think about it, but I can't think of a better way, either.

In general, I felt pretty helpless about the situation. We drove along the wall (and I'll get into the different names for the wall in a second), and I could help but feel caught between a rock and a hard place. My heart--my emotional side--wished everyone could live in peace together. It was a very Yariv Opphenheimer outlook: optimistic, hopeful, believing in the goodness of humanity and its ability to overpower decades of hate and fear. My brain--the logic part of me--said that the wall was the best thing to keep both sides safe and alive.

Somewhere in between these sides, I wished that there could be a better solution to surface soon, though most people we talked to who actually live in Israel and Palestine said that a long-term solution would not appear in their lifetimes--which meant it probably wouldn't appear in mine either. I get that the wall keeps people safe, but at what cost? The prevention of contact with the other side?

If you can't tell, I think about this a lot, and I never come to a good conclusion--besides the fact that we should hold nothing but empathy, hope, and love in our hearts. And as soon as I say that, my brain immediately tells me that I'm just a naive child if I actually think that's possible. Hmm. I am going through a lot of chaotic emotions while writing this… right now. This seems to happen a lot while I'm writing about my trip: one tangent leads to another, and another, and another.

I learned on this trip that there was so much more to learn--that as an American, I am incredibly uninformed of the reality on the ground. I also learned that many think it's not my place to be all up in their business--which is understandable. I, someone who is not directly, physically affected by this conflict, should mind my own business because there are enough problems to solve on my doorstep.

Why should I be interested in the rest of the world, then? I think it's the hope and resilience that fascinates me about this region and this conflict, but beyond just the surface level, there are humans living an everyday life and burdened by everything that surrounds them.

Yes, there is pain and hurt on every side. Yes, it makes me cry. I realize it is incredibly privileged of me to be able to say this, as an outsider looking in. I come from such a vantage point of privilege--to be able to empathize greatly but at the end of the day go home to a safe dorm room, where my identity is not being questioned by a different side's identity.

Sometimes I feel lost on where I should stand on this conflict because I did myself into the above rabbit hole you just read, but most of the time I remind myself: I know that I will not stand for anything besides humanity. It's not pro-Palestinian; it's not pro-Israeli. It's not pro-Arab or pro-Muslim, and it's not pro-Jewish either. We should all be pro-human. What that actually looks like varies depending on who you talk to, but almost every narrative I heard on this trip boils down to being pro-human.

But of course, what I think about the conflict will not affect the outcome of what happens over in Israel and Palestine. One student, one group of Berkeley kids coming to learn about it--coming to hear a million different viewpoints about a million different nuances we have never thought to consider--that isn't going to change how Netanyahu decides to control the border, or how the Palestinian Authority decides to go about negotiations, or how Hamas decides to further their agenda.

What will be affected by this trip, though, is our own narratives. Our own perspectives (to reference the name of the trip). Another speaker who I will talk about more later told our group that the way Berkeley's student government decides to "condemn Israel's actions of illegal settlements in the West Bank" doesn't define or change the reality in the West Bank, but it does change AND define the reality of Berkeley's student government.

How we conduct our everyday business back home--whether that be discussing what we learned on the trip or just empathizing with someone we might not have before--that's the tangible changes we take out of this experience. That can change who we are, how we interact with people, and how we are seen by others.

Alright, I promise I will actually talk about Ramallah and the West Bank in the next section--and the many names given to the wall! See you then!

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.

It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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The Lazy Girl's Guide To The Gym

Also, everything else you should know if you're a slightly out-of-shape girl (like me).


With my freshman year coming to an end, I realized a lot of things. I made new friends, I found new hobbies, and I learned a lot of lessons. One of them being that the "Freshman 15" is very real and very scary.

While my friends and family have attempted multiple times to convince me that I'm just being dramatic (I am), I still want to make a change in my lifestyle or I will, in all seriousness, be on track to the "Sophomore 20".

Here is a list of my best gym and healthy lifestyle tips that I am slowly attempting to live by this summer in order to resurrect Emily's 18-year-old body and health.

1. Increase water intake.

2. Find a gym buddy.

3. Start off with cardio.

4. Don't stop on your cardio until you're dripping in sweat.

5. Chug a LOT of water an hour before the gym.

Do not do it right before, or you will be in pain.

6. Eat light beforehand but just enough to hold you over. 

7. Plan out what your routine will be BEFORE you get there.

My routine: Elliptical for a mile, Stairmaster for 10 minutes, ab HIIT workout for 10 minutes, 5 more minutes on Stairmaster.

8. Buy healthy foods while you're feeling motivated.

9. Find a gym that isn't too far from your house. 

10. Don't get mad at yourself if you don't see results in a day.

I know this is a hard one.

11. Try fitness classes. 

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