When Hate (of Israel) Turns To Love

When a group of Israeli students at Harvard secured funding for the Harvard Israel Trek, they opened up the opportunity to fellow students of all backgrounds. Fifty were selected from 300 applicants. One Oliver Marjot, a sophomore medieval history student from Guilford, England, joined expecting the Trek to be a confirmation of his “European certainty of your arrogant oppression.”

That’s not what happened. His eyes opened, his heart turned to verse. Here are excerpts from his poetic mea culpa:

I came to you, Israel, wanting to hate you. To be confirmed in my reasonable European certainty of your arrogant oppression, lounging along the Mediterranean coast, facing West in your vast carelessness and American wealth. I wanted to appreciate your history, but tut over the arrogant folly of your present. I wanted to cross my arms smugly, and shake my head over you, and then leave you to fight your unjust wars. I wanted to take from you. To steal away some spiritual satisfaction, and sigh and pray, and shake my head over your spiritual folly as well.

I didn’t realise you were broken as well as wealthy, fragile as well as strong. I didn’t realise that you suffer from a thousand voices clamouring in your head, and that some of those voices care about justice and democracy, and that some of them love their neighbours. I didn’t realise that a thousand enemies press on your borders, hoarding instruments of death, as chaos and darkness and madness consume the world every way you look. I didn’t realise that you care about your past – that some of those voices of yours treasure the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob every bit as much as I do. I didn’t realise. Nobody told me. Or maybe they did, and I refused to listen. I didn’t expect to fall in love with you.

The full version of the poem is available here.

[Hat tip to Michael Poppers]

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2 Responses

  1. David Z says:

    I was only skeptical about this story because if he hatred Israel so much why did he sign up for the trip?

  2. Raymond says:

    David Z apparently read my mind, for the exact same thought occurred to me. The fact that those Harvard students were willing to travel to Israel in the first place, tells me that whatever antisemitism that they harbored until then was superficial, and that the love of Israel that was buried deep inside them, was able to become manifest, due to their trip to Israel. I remain very, very skeptical that the deeper and therefore far more irrational form of antisemitism could ever be cured, as such haters do not seem to have the slightest interest in such inconvenient things like facts and evidence.

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