Two Cousins On the Annapolis Peace Conference
[We asked cousins Mimi Asnes and Ben Keller to cover yesterday's peace conference at Annapolis, Mimi from the outside and Ben from within. Read all their coverage here.] I'm on the overnight train from Boston to Washington, DC with a … Read More
[We asked cousins Mimi Asnes and Ben Keller to cover yesterday's peace conference at Annapolis, Mimi from the outside and Ben from within. Read all their coverage here.]
I'm on the overnight train from Boston to Washington, DC with a Darwin’s sandwich steadily disappearing next to me and a lot of hours to fill. As of my last functional wireless connection, the world is abuzz with preemptive talk about the failure of Annapolis. Haaretz has a lead story on Ismail Haniyeh’s refutal of Abbas’ mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Over on Al-Jazeera's Arabic site, an article about the deaths of four martyrs in Gaza is accompanied by a picture of a young boy crying and cradling the head of one of the militants in his arms. The message is clear; headsof state can have all the congratulatory dinner parties they want:here, it’s still war. It’s remarkable how some days, being able to read fluently in Arabicand Hebrew just reaffirms the futility of my very motivation forlearning these languages: to be able to Make A Difference in thePalestinian-Israeli conflict. People are often amazed at how quickly I can switch between Israeli-sounding Hebrew to Palestinian dialectand exclaim, “if only there were more people like you, this conflictwould be over tomorrow!” Or if there were more people like me, everyone would give up right here and now. I am 27, born and raised in Watertown, Massachusetts with anexcellent early education at the Solomon Schechter Day School ofNewton. My parents sent me to Jewish school less out of their ownlinguistic or religious conviction (neither speaks Hebrew or believesin a traditional God) and more because I was a miserable failure atmaking friends in public school kindergarten. If they figured thatthere might be a higher percentage of the socially awkward in privateschool, they were right. Fast forward through the requisite drama geek high school experience—incollege I (re)discovered my connection to the Middle East, thistime fueled by a beginning knowledge of the Arabic language and adesire to see Israelis and Palestinians on my own terms. I spent twosummers working in Nazareth with a Palestinian-Israeli women’sorganization before and during the al-Aqsa Intifada and went on to pursuea Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies. I've recently begun curating aseries of Talkbacks following the performance of the play MASKED, anIsraeli-authored drama about three Palestinian brothers.
My cousin Ben, 24, is trying to grab a few last hours of sleep before his 5 AMcall inside the Naval Academy to set up computer systems to monitorthis seminal conference. Ben grew up mostly in Silver Spring, MD, withforays into Canada and Queens during his formative years. He is partof a third generation of tinkers and builders in the Goldsman-Kellerfamily; Ben’s grandfather’s reputation for being able to fix anyelectrical gadget (as long as you aren’t in a hurry) turned into anaptitude for fixing up cars and computers in his grandsons. Not manypeople can claim to have bought a BMW “fixer-upper” for $100, or tohave driven in a caravan of such cars from Maryland to Philadelphia fora cheese steak. After graduating from Blair High School, Ben enlisted in the US Armyand as a Private First Class was in charge of what he explains is “awhole lot of important computers at Fort Lewis”; he ended his serviceafter over two years and went on to work for Boeing before moving intojournalistic tech support. Ben looks forward to pursuing a BFA, and eventually an MFA, in photography; his specialty is sports photography but unless Olmertand Abbas really go at it, he’ll have little use for that particularskill at Annapolis.
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