Friday, April 11, 2008

And Now You Say...

I was reading an article in CAMERA newsletter recently in which reporter Giliad Ini focused on a recent Wall Street Journal article which incorrectly identified the occupied West Bank as Palestinian, instead of disputed territory. While I understand the importance of accuracy in a news article, I also understand points of view that meld the past, present and future...but wishing and misreporting won't make a Palestinian country.

Willingness to live in peace with its neighbors may help bring one into existence. According to the article Israel's prime minister, Ehud Ohlmert recently said:

I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land. ...

Painfully, we the people of Israel have learned to change our perspective. We have to compromise in the name of peace, to give up parts of our promised land in which every hill and valley is saturated with Jewish history and in which our heroes are buried. We have to relinquish part of our dream to leave room for the dream of others, so that all of us can enjoy a better future.

That said...why is Hamas still set on destroying Israel? If Israel and its people can acknowledge that their Palestinian cousins deserve to have a homeland, why can't the fundamentalist anti-Semites give up their hatred and narrow-mindedness and welcome the Jewish people back home?

Is it because they have been taught a false history in which they believe Jews have no connection or claim to the land? If so, and I believe it's the often case, they are deluding themselves and their children. Whom is hurt in this case? Sacrificing one's children to this false idol--teaching them to incinerate themselves and innocent bystanders--is the opposite of hope.

When the United Nations recognized the state of Israel in 1948, Arab countries of the region expelled most of their Jewish citizens. I'm talking Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morroco, and more. Most of those refugees came to Israel to start over. So, for Hamas to say that the Jews are a western creation foisted upon them is false. These people are related (check out the recent DNA studies that find a familial correlation between the Jews, Palestinians and Syrians). And like repairing a dysfunctional family, the extremists deserve to be abandoned or rehabilitated while the rest get on with living their lives.

Palestinian refugees were left to ferment in camps by Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon instead of being welcomed and incorporated into their societies--with the exception of Jordan. Ironically, these days the Palestinians are the most educated of the Arab peoples. If the Palestinians and Israelis could work together or at least in peace, there's no telling how bright the region's future could be. But there's those who thrive on continuing the discord.

Fundamentalists on all sides need to take a deep breath, acknowledge that they've been taught to hate the "other" and get on with making peace with themselves and their cousins. We don't need a repeat of Cain and Abel. Ishmael and Israel are brothers. Sarah and Hagar need to embrace. There is no winner when war is the answer.

We need to get back to the fact that we're all created by the Creator. The Jewish people are not invading. The Jews of Israel have returned to their homeland. That said, it's true that those who were already there are also of that place. They are each's relatives. So...let's be polite and make room for everyone.

However, when you look at the size of the current state of Israel, and the security concerns of the geography and the threatening actions of neighbors--Iran this means you--you've got to understand that Israelis, despite their current strength, feel vulnerable. It's not realistic to expect the Israelis to give away all of the highlands won in the '67 war, including much of Jerusalem. That said, building more new settlements on currently disputed land is not the way forward.

I've been called naive, but I do know you can't trust that things will change if you're stressed out about your very existence. I just think it's hopeless to thinking hatred HAS to continue unabated forever.

I know there's a better way. Having lived in Israel for two years, I have met people of all affiliations: Sabras, Morrocan, Iraqi, Yemeni, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Indian, Turkish and European Jewish Israelis, Muslim Israelis, American Baptist and Lutheran fundamentalist missionaries, Palestinian, Liberian and Greek Christians, Samaritans, Druse, B'Hai, Canadian Jews-4-Jesus, secularists and agnostics.

There is a vibrancy in the region. A live-your-life-for-the-moment-'coz- you-don't-know-what-the- future-holds way. Women have more rights than in many places, yet, the continued dominance of society by men is my biggest gripe. The hierarchichal patriarchy needs to make room for the rights of women (and children), so that true equality can emerge. Women need to insist on their elevation. Secular civil rights need to be put in place. Rights to divorce must be granted. Violence against women must stop.

There is no ethical more, no honored tradition that accepts the use and abuse and trafficking of women--even from other cultures--yet this is the case throughout much the Middle/Near East and probably elsewhere.

In the future there will be a safe and strong Israel and, I hope, a safe and proud Palestine and maybe--just maybe--between the two or overlapping in nooks and crannies of friendship there can be a third land where everyone who just wants to live and let live in a more utopian way can just BE. Then there will be space for seeds of peace to sprout.

Maybe this utopian future coming together of peoples, a messianic era of tikkun olam (healing the world), can honor females as sacred beings and embrace the feminine in God.

'Til then the human sisterhood and their brothers must come together--refusing to be enemies--and create a blessing for our children's future, not a conflagration.

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