Friday, 15 March 2013

Tackling segregation: let’s start closer to home

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A few years ago I lived in Gaza – where segregation is the norm. It is a day to day experience with walls and borders there to remind you.

Attempts to cross from Gaza into Israel are met frequently with no’s, rejections and ‘come back tomorrow’s. Sitting on the closed border at Rafah was a shock to me – the incredibly lucky owner of a British passport. Until that day I’d never been told ‘no’.

Of course, to Gazans this is an everyday fact of life. Their land is divided, and, for most, their only chance of meeting an Israeli is if the Defence Force enter the Strip again.

On my return to the UK I got a job at The Challenge Network, working with young people in the borough of Barnet. And for the first time, I fully appreciated the segregation within our own society. Here in London we’re very fortunate; we don’t have closed borders or economic blockades.  And yet so many of us live parallel lives divided by age, income or ethnicity.

For Palestinians and Israelis, if they want to live in a united country, they must work continually to bring an end to the barriers that divide them.

But what’s our excuse? A lack of urgency? A lack of knowledge? Or a lack of spaces where people naturally come together?

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