HONOLULU (KHON2) — The conflict in Israel with Hamas is taking its toll on many local residents who have familial ties to Israel.
One such resident is local business owner Ron Bronstein who owns Chamber Escape Games in Honolulu.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but his family moved to Tel Aviv — which is located in the center of Israel — when he was older allowing him to spend nine years in the region with his family. Bronstein’s experiences led him to earn his undergraduate degree in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and Middle East Affairs from Reichman University’s School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel.
Bronstein has been in Hawaiʻi for seven years and frequently visits his parents and family who remain in Tel Aviv. He said that the conflict has impacted his family.
“One thing that most people don’t realize is how massively intimate and personal recent events are,” said Bronstein. “Israel is a tiny country; it’s the same size and population of New Jersey. So, every Israeli, the ones who live there and the ones abroad, feel this intimately. My personal Facebook feed is full of faces of the people missing, kidnapped, injured, killed; and it’s often less than one degree of separation. So, this isn’t just some hypothetical conflict at the border. This is something that has struck really close to home.”
His mother has four co-workers who have gone missing as the conflict escalates, and many of his friends have been called up when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up 300,000 reservists.
“My brother-in-law and my sister’s boyfriend have already been called up to reserve duty,” said Bronstein. “So, several of my friends, several of my mom’s colleagues, have gone missing. It’s just very real, very personal. And whatever happens in the coming weeks, it’s important to understand the depths of this tragedy and how much it has affected everyone.”
While Bronstein’s family has not been impacted directly, they have been impacted via their community and family relationships.
“It’s such an intimate situation, and it’s, like, a lot of these people are, they’re actually related,” said Bronstein. “So, there have been some that are kidnapped like my sister’s friends. My brother’s best friend was one of the people kidnapped and shown in the video. I have another friend here in Hawaiʻi whose friend was killed and made the news. Like, it’s just so real.”
He also said that in every direction he looks, he finds people who are at least one degree removed from someone who has been directly impacted.
“Again, I’m very fortunate that no one in my immediate circle has been affected,” said Bronstein. “A lot of friends caught up to the reserves, but one degree away from that. And, you know, deaths and abductions. It’s real close.”
One of the things that Bronstein said that people need to understand about this conflict is that not all of the people of Palestine are a part of Hamas. This conflict was instigated by a group of people living in Palestine and not by everyone who lives there. And these are some of the people who are suffering some of the worst consequences for the actions of Hamas.
“The best way to really think about what’s been happening with the Palestinians and Israelis is that there have been people from both communities living there for hundreds and hundreds of years,” explained Bronstein. “And the area that we now know of as Israel was always occupied by different foreign powers from the Ottoman Empire in World War I to the British Empire.”
The nation-state of Israel that we know in our modern times was created on May 14, 1948. After World War II, the world was reeling from the discovery of how atrocious the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich were.
In Hitler’s drive to eradicate the existence of Jewish peoples in Europe, he inadvertently created a an international and political landscape in which the state of Israel had to be created.
“The modern Israel that we know today really kind of got its start in 1948 when the United Nations created the Partition Plan,” said Bronstein. “Basically, it was the first proposition for Israeli and Arab states that would have had the boundaries to accommodate both communities. The Jews who lived there accepted it; the Arabs there did not. And that’s where the war of independence of the Arab Israeli War first began.”
Bronstein went on to explain further.
“Israelis survived the first outbreak of violence; and from then, more hostilities really commenced,” explained Bronstein. “There was a sequence of wars over the next decades where the boundaries would shift where Israel would be attacked by several of the neighboring countries. They would gain territory and give some back. And the whole time, the Arabs who were living in that region were under different occupying powers. The Arabs that were living in the Gaza Strip were occupied by Egypt. The Arabs that were living in the West Bank were occupied by Jordan.”
But the way the world viewed Israel changed in 1967 when the state had its first opportunity to push back at the forces that instigated war.
“That is when Israeli military occupation over that land began for the first time,” said Bronstein. “And in the following years, decades, the Arabs living in the occupied area started the Palestinian self-determination movements; so, they were no longer just Arabs living in that area. They wanted to identify as Palestinians, introducing the Palestinian flag and the Palestine nationality. There was a real push for Palestinian statehood.”
Bronstein explained that in the following decades, there have been flare ups, tensions and conflicts with different pushes for a peace process.
“Again, to just skim on the surface of this difficult and complex situation, there are so many different Palestinian factions,” said Bronstein. “Some are more violent while some are less violent.”
Bronstein said that in terms of the Israeli appetite for peace, there was a belief that it was possible back in the 1990s. That was what he called the “heyday” of the hope for peace amongst Israelis.
“But since then, it has kind of gone downhill,” said Bronstein. “And the conflict that we’re seeing today is really the kind of culmination of that and the biggest events then occurred in 2005 when Israel withdrew all of its forces unilaterally. A year later, Hamas won by election and decided to use the Gaza Strip as a launching pad for continued attacks and jihad against Israel.”
According to Bronstein, this is when Israeli forces essentially blockaded Gaza from land, sea and air in order to prevent attacks from coming across.
“And that’s where the conflict in that area really set off in terms of Gaza and citizens being unable to move freely and have access to a lot of basic humanitarian necessities,” explained Bronstein. “But an ongoing security concern from Israel with Hamas made it impossible to really relax those restrictions. And as recent events have shown, when there was any weakness in security or military intelligence on the side of Israel, Hamas has taken advantage of it, which led to the tragic outcomes of the past couple weeks.”
Needless to say, the war that is taking place is having a devastating impact on people who are living in both Israel and Gaza. But we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do to mitigate the destruction of Israel as a nation-state and provide a safe home for those who identify as Palestinian.
Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8
Check out the video above to hear the full interview with Ron Bronstein as he explains in-depth the consequences of the current conflict and how its impacting family and friends.