Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The World Lately

Okay, so I thought I was doing well...started to work out again...walk...row... stretch...all with a purpose to better my ever-aging (as stream-lined ads remind me) self before it's too late.

But, I can't shake the feeling that the world is more like a lot of fiction and fantasy than reality. I'm going to stay hopeful if only to keep from freezing in my tracks or becoming one with a rocking chair.

I don't have to tell anyone who really knows me that I'm disappointed in what's happening in Israel. I grew up loving Israel...the myth of idyllic Israel, and I still love the idea of Israel's potential...what it could be in it's own best rendition. THAT would include a declaration of civil rights, an acceptance and ability for people to marry whom they choose, a re-hauling of the electoral system so that tiny groups can't hold sway over the moderates, equal rights among the sexes, and a way for future generations not to harden their hearts or to turn toward anti-democratic nationalism.

I am against the ultra-nationalists on either side. I don't support people who bully others, whether it be the hapless person who has wandered into the "wrong" neighborhood or the person who is in a minority group. I know what being in a minority is like; it's an experience that I think everyone should have. It broadens your mind and should lead to the truth that is "don't do anything to someone else that you wouldn't have done to you." If for only selfish reasons that works. I am for Israel remaining a democracy and for expanding its potential by embracing the mirror-image to itself--another country--a twin called Palestine.

You might have a hard time with my calling Palestine a twin to Israel, but I mean it, for these two peoples are paired whether they like it or not. There's no reason for them to rip each other apart. Like in the biblical stories where one brother gets the father's blessing and birthright through trickery, the precedent needn't be acted out like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Patriarchy isn't the only tradition in the Holy Land. Yes, the Jews' history precedes the Christians' and Muslims' but the people who live there all have a connection. True believers dreaming for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock shrine are a danger to everyone. Isaac and/or Ishmael were spared those millenia ago; let's not sacrifice our children to the ever-strangling embrace of religious dogma. Instead of arguing over whose claim carries more weight, all people could transcend the discord by building a better future.

Now, we must teach our children to live with compassion and open-mindedness. Parents--Israeli and Palestinian--have lost enough children to this struggle. What is the other option? How about building a better future together? How about people going to school together, learning and living together and building a better way in peace?

I don't know if it can work anymore. When I was a student in Jerusalem in 1984-85 there were Arabs and Jews going to the Hebrew University together. There was at least dialogue.

After invading Lebanon and turning a blind-eye to the massacre in Sabra and Shatilla, Ariel Sharon brought thousands of Russians to Israel...some with little or no connection to their Jewish roots. Now, a generation later a nationalist of Russian descent is playing king-maker in Israeli politics. I wonder what Sharon would say if he could but I'd have a hard time listening. He switched to Kadima too late; his earlier actions have left a more enduring and bruising impact on the country. The karma of his present situation isn't lost on me.

I still hold Binyamin Netanyahu responsible for the incendiary language that got Yitzhak Rabin assassinated. And Ehud Barak wants to make his bed with him? I think Tzipi Livni got it right. A real shame.

What would I have Israelis do? Jews and Arabs needn't retreat to fear and finger-pointing would be a major travesty. Terrorists must be dealt with but in a manner than doesn't spread the conflict to the civilian populations.

While Israel is attacked and shelled by those who hate it, Israelis have a choice as to how to respond. In the army there are those who still fight ethically and those who choose to dehumanize their opponents. When religion is added to the mix blindness follows.

Forces of sanity and moderation over the extremists on all sides must prevail. In1989 my friend Mark became friends with Jamal. An American Jew who served as a volunteer in the Israeli army for a time and also taught English to Israeli-Arab children in a Galilee village, Mark spent a summer working at a swank, Tel Aviv beach hotel. Jamal, a Israeli Muslim from Nazareth, also worked there. They became friends and often hung out together after work. It was a sad day when Jamal's neighbors threatened him. Jamal had been raised to see Jews as brethren. He no longer felt safe living a more cosmopolitan life away from his home town.

What if we didn't retreat? What if people respected the other? A friend's seven-year-old child called us "mixed up" because my husband's family is Christian and mine is Jewish. I look forward to a time when it's not considered strange or bizarre for people to cross religious boundaries in matters of love. Love is more important than hatred of an other.

People are either in an advantaged group or not; it's the ebb and flow of history. What matters in all times is how people treat each other. It's about not abusing power. The group One Voice is working hard to make a connection between all Israeli citizens. Paul McCartney recently endorsed their peace-making efforts; that's cool since a friend of a friend is part of this organization.

With reference to Gaza, how sad is it that the civilians were not allowed to flee the mayhem either into Egypt or to Israel. Preserving innocent life should be paramount to anyone--whether you consider them YOUR people or not. Because anyone who wouldn't see another person as human will take that attitude home with him and let it infect his own house.

...Israel beitaynu. Yikes.

Everyone's neighbors no matter what they call the place. I am for healing, for combatting the depression of hopelessness.

And for those who say, who are you kidding?, I know it sounds naive but we must preserve that aspect of ourselves so that one day we can be in balance again. Or the rest is slaughter.

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