by Lotahn Raz
Marching Together: Israeli Jews and Palestinians marching together against the war in Jerusalem, an initiative of the Hand-in-Hand Arab-Jewish school Photo: Quique Kierszenbaum
It was a hot summer. One of the hottest I recall. And yet, the heat is the last thing I will remember of it. I will remember this summer because it was my son’s first. I will remember it for the speed in which he began to crawl around the house as May came to an end. And I will cherish the magical moment, several weeks later, when he crawled into the corner formed by our two living room couches, pushed his hands against them and lifted up his small body to a full stand, as if he had been practicing it for weeks, leaving us with a funny look of shock and delight covering our faces.
This summer we also took our son to the safe-room (a fortified room in the house, common to modern Israeli construction, designed to act like a bomb-shelter in case of attack) for the first time. Even though we live in Haifa, which was distant from the epicenter of the war, we found ourselves waking up at 3 a.m. and running to the safe room. The kidnapping and murder of the three youth near the Alon-Shvut settlement, and the kidnapping and murder of the youth in Shuafat, the displays of violence, hatred and racism which followed the kidnappings, and the war which followed all of these – will remain in my memory for years to come, long after the winter rains begin.
The current situation is unsustainable
More than ever, the last summer has shown that the current situation is unsustainable. This past war was the third war in Gaza in the past five years, and it is likely not the last. With the ending of each cycle of war, we prepare ourselves for the next. It is clear to us all that these wars cannot bring about peace and security to those living in Israel’s south. It is equally clear that Israel’s current policies cannot assure security to anyone, not only those who live in the south. And the amount of hatred, racism and violence which we saw this past summer show how hard the recent years have been on us and how far they have lead us from our hopes for our country. We deserve more. We are worthy of more.
Over the past few months we have developed an expertise in blame – we have blamed the Palestinians, the government, the left, and the right – whoever possible, for our sorry situation. Blaming others is nice. It is always followed by a tender feeling of relief. The trouble begins five minutes later, when the deceptive comforting feeling wears and in its place comes a growing understanding that we are still stuck in the same dirt.
We must and we can go beyond blame. We need to look squarely at reality and openly state the truth, so that we can move onward to a real security for us all.
Military operations cannot bring security
For years now we have been stuck in a cycle in which we repeatedly try to bring about quiet by carrying out military interventions, only to soon after find ourselves entering another military operation, this time with even more military might. These military operations have not succeeded in bringing about security, neither in the south, nor anywhere else in Israel. They cannot bring about security, and never will. Any destruction of life only adds another layer of grief, hatred and fear for everyone. When people hate and hurt, someone will always be found to act out of the pain and try to hurt and kill. It is a mistake to hope every time anew, that this time we shall succeed, that if only we were able to eliminate a certain threat or terrorist we would gain the safety we crave for. That way of thinking has never proved itself and only leaves us despairing each time anew from the ongoing lack of safety.
On both sides of the conflict reside people: raising children, fostering hopes and dreams for them, laughing and crying, and trying, rather meekly, to get by and enjoy their existence. We have been living for a long time in a conflict that has not been in our own interest, and which has led to the destruction of homes, livelihood and the loss of relatives and dear friends for people on both sides, as well as to a feeling of hopelessness, anger and despair. We don’t understand each other well. We don’t understand each other’s responses well. We are good people, and we have been stuck, against our better interest, in a conflict which has become more desperate and more violent the more the realities of life have gotten harsher.
In order for us to live in safety and peace, and be able to promise a future for our children, we need to bring the conflict to an end. A real end. Not one that leaves people gagging for air and despairing. Not a pretend ending where one side has the upper hand.
To end the conflict we must create a reality in which everyone lives a good life
The possible solutions are many. It is a mistake to think that there is only one possible path for resolving the conflict. But the principle which must guide any such solution is one – in order to end the conflict we must bring about a reality in which everyone lives a good life. Not pretense, not almost good, not a mere scraping out of existence, not crumbs, but rather security, peace and true prosperity. For people on both sides of the conflict this would mean that we could all determine our fates, that we could make a good living, not barely make our way through life, that we could spend quality time with our family and friends, and that we manage our lives and our relationships with others with respect and decency, and are free from the constant threat of violence.
A friend from work told me recently that he is has lost hope – that the solution which I describe is impossible since the situation has already become too grave, that the anger and hatred that have built up over the years for both people are just too big.
But this is not an irreversible fate.
We must end the hatred, despair and anger that lead to acts of violence
Hatred, despair and anger do indeed often lead to acts of violence and viciousness. But once we stop living in the reality that has brought about these feelings, once the reality itself changes, we can all be free to live and enjoy the life we have been given, and once again dare to weave dreams for ourselves and our loved ones. If we build a reality in which everyone lives well, the anger and hatred of the past will take up a smaller part of our existence. We will still have to deal with them. We will have to find ways in which we can listen to each other honestly and openly and hear what has happened between us in the years in which we lived the conflict. We will have to find ways to heal. There are people and organizations that are already doing this important work. But it will be easier for all of us to do this after we are no longer living within the conflict itself.
We will have to create this vision ourselves. We will have to abandon the despair, anger and blame which we have been hostage to. We will have to decide not to shrug our shoulders in despair and mutely await the next war. We have tried these wars for too long. We need a new path.
This new path will require vision, imagination and daring. We can go down this path. I cannot think of anyone more adept to the task than us, nor can I think of a better time than the present. If we start paving the way, this past year could be the last one in which we have lived through war.
Lotahn Raz blogs at Connecting the Lines on Israel, Life and the Worldhttp://connectlines.wordpress.com/author/connectthelines/