I can tell you, tear gas burns.
In 2012, I made two trips to Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of my work with an aid and development organisation. I encountered protests in the West Bank that involved fire blockades set up by young Palestinians, Molotov cocktails being thrown, and the response of teargas from Israeli soldiers.
It's a powder-keg waiting to blow at any time, even in the latest attempt at a ceasefire. It comes from decades of conflict and competing understandings. In my arrogance, some part of me thought I had the answers, but in that land I felt useless as I realised I could not change it.
There are the aspirations of the Jewish people who underwent centuries of discrimination and oppression - particularly in Europe and Russia -resulting in the emergence of the Zionist movement in the late 1890s. Their desire was a homeland where they would be safe from persecution.
That persecution came to a head with the Holocaust.
There is also a people group who are officially considered refugees. Palestinians. They are stateless, frustrated, and have their own yearnings for nationhood.
Both peoples have fallen victim to the bungling colonialism of Britain, the United Nations, and its defunct predecessor, the League of Nations.
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI saw much of the Middle East come under the mandate of Britain and France, agreed to by the League of Nations.
Circumstances led to a reformed Turkish state, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia gaining independence through the 1920s-40s.
In that mix was the small area known as Palestine where, over the decades of their mandate, Britain made conflicting promises to the Jewish and Arab populations about how their nationhood aspirations might play out.
WWII brought an influx of Jews in Palestine seeking to escape horror. Tensions arose between these Jewish refugees, the governing British authorities, and the majority Arab population. Eventually, Britain proposed a partition plan.
Following WWII, the United Nations took up the problem. The result was a modification of the previous partition plan. Most nations voted in favour of it. The Arab nations did not.
When the British mandate ended in 1948, the Jewish population declared and fought to establish their state while the surrounding Arab nations attempted to stop them. The result was the formation of modern Israel and the beginning of Arab refugees who identify as Palestinian. The West Bank and Gaza formed as Palestinian refugee camps.
In the Six-Day War of 1967, the governance of the West Bank and Gaza shifted from Jordan and Egypt respectively, to Israel, which gained those territories and the Golan Heights in the conflict.
So, on one side are those who see the land as uniquely Jewish: that they were granted a state, critical to avoiding the persecutions they had endured for centuries and continue to endure today every time antisemitism raises its ugly head, as it often does.
They have a right to safety. In their view, the return of Palestinian refugees would destroy the uniquely Jewish identity of Israel; hence the idea of creating two states similar to the original partition plan.
On the other side, there are now generations of people who fled from their homeland, never agreed to the partition, and who believe they have a right to return. For some, this is a fight for liberation and they watch as Israeli settlements grow in a territory they consider theirs. They, as do all people, have a right to a place they can call home.
On both sides are leaders who think might is right; that the only way forward is the violent domination of the other, so the conflict continues to flare up. In the meantime, innocent people die, and many more live in constant fear.
My only hope for any sort of way forward, when the narratives of both seem irreconcilable, is for leaders with a will towards peace to rise to the top on both sides. Peace will take compromise and creativity. It will take a resolute determination to not use violence to solve the problem.
In the meantime, I sit with my futility and sense of uselessness as I watch missiles fly, homes being destroyed, people running to bunkers, and women and children being killed.
Living half a world away, the only thing I can offer is a heavy sense of lament because, sometimes, all we have left are tears.
I turn to the words of an ancient Psalmist who adored Jerusalem – a divided city loved by many today; Israelis, Palestinians; Jews, Christians and Muslims:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels." For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, "Peace be within you."
• Rev. Frank Ritchie is the cohost of Sunday at Six on Newstalk ZB, a media chaplain, and a church minister in Hamilton.