Stein Bronsky left Salt Lake City in August of 1987 to spend one semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the remainder of the year at a kibbutz. Little did he know he would be living among Arabs and Israelis while the most recent battle of a centuries-old enmity played itself out on the front pages of the world's newspapers.
Bronsky spent six months at Sa'ad Kibbutz, two miles from the Gaza Strip, about three miles from Gaza City. He worked with Palestinians who came in each day from Gaza City to work on the kibbutz. Off-duty Israeli soldiers talked with him daily about the uprising, and while in East Jerusalem going to school, Bronsky was caught in the middle of one of the incidents so well-known to news watchers.Bronsky returned June 7 from his year in Israel. Listening to a Salt Lake attorney speak at the Congregation Kol Ami after a trip to the Middle East, Bronsky found the description of what he had seen first-hand not quite accurate.
"I'm pro-Israeli, but there is no black and white in this situation. No one agrees that everything the Israelis are doing is right, but if you're going to get a story, you ought to get both sides," Bronsky said in a Deseret News interview.
"People are taken on 10-day parades through the Middle East by chosen people to set places and are shown events, sometimes staged events from a one-sided point of view. These people are used as pawns by the Arabs against the Israelis," Bronsky said.
While in Israel traveling through East Jerusalem to school, Bronsky's bus was caught in a disturbance. "There had been rock throwing at Israeli vehicles and then the Arabs turned on the civilians caught in the area. The soldiers used tear gas and it was over. The whole incident took maybe a minute. But the news report of it included clips of an incident that occurred three months earlier," Bronsky said.
"The press seems to be forgetting to report on the `why' of these situations. Yes, homes are searched and sometimes destroyed and people are beaten. But it is not reported that these are not random-picked people. They were throwing firebombs or making bombs to throw at military vehicles.
"Yes, children have been shot but it was not reported that a terrorist sent that child out with a firebomb in hand to throw at an army vehicle, knowing full well that the soldiers would have no choice but to shoot."
While living near Gaza City, Bronsky became friends with several Arabs and is corresponding with them. Bronsky was particularly impressed with a 26-year-old Palestinian named Ali who spoke six languages fluently and was attending a university.
"When I asked him what he would like to see happen in the Middle East, he told me he would like to see all the Jews leave, that they had stolen the land. I told him that just wouldn't happen, so what is next? Then he said, `Someday we'll all have to learn to live together.' "
Bronsky supports the cause of a Palestinian state but not under leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization. "The PLO covenant states on the first page that they will get every single Jew out of the Middle East. They flood millions of dollars into the territories to support terrorism. Would you give a state next door to America to an international terrorist group that was sworn to annihilate you? There are Palestinians that just want a place to live, but if leadership arises with that point of view, they `disappear,' " Bronsky said.