Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh Sons And Daughters Of Israel!

I am indebted to one of my on-line friends, Emily L. Hauser, for a great deal of good information and insight into the current social conflict in Israel. I will not rehash her take on events there, but suggest you read her excellent blog to receive the unadulterated version. It has brought me, though, to try and formulate my own opinion on the subject; normally I do not delve into the conflict.

Israel the State, and Israel the Kingdom of God's Chosen, are two very different places. It would seem that depending on the strength of your orthodoxy, you fall into the spectrum between the two. There are those, conservative and ultra-orthodox, who claim the land of the God of Abraham as sacred and inviolate, and who feel little sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians who occupied it before 1948. There are those, cosmopolitan and liberal, who shriek for peace between the two factions, detesting and despising the other side for their magnanimity. In between, lies the bulk of Israel, the people of a vibrant culture, trying to forge daily lives, living with the minute but nagging fear of reprisal, and simply wishing a successful conclusion to hostilities, so they need not fear riding the bus or going to the market.

Mirroring Israel in its duality are the Palestinian territories, Gaza and The West Bank, each controlled by a very different faction of the cause of Palestine. Hamas, overlords of Gaza, deny Israel a right even to exist, and as such, have brought down on their Gazan citizenry privation and despair, with their homes, until recently, sealed off from the world. Over in The West Bank, Fatah, heir to the legacy Yassir Arafat, tries to continue to work with Israel toward peace, even as it squabbles with Hamas. There are signs the two organizations are coming together, but there is still a long road ahead toward reconciliation. In Gaza meantime, Hamas' involvement in the government there continues to provide a sore point for the Israeli government.

So, we have two groups of people, split into multiple factions, living in an uneasy state of flux, which occasionally flares into incandescence as flurries of rockets or a suicide bomb or an invasion. Trust is at a premium; peace is only a dream. The complicated relationships between governments and religions, all taking place in a territory that has swapped hands scores of times in the thousands of years of its habitation, claimed as a holy place by three major religions, cannot reach a state of tranquility without all sides being willing to place dogma and rhetoric in a box, and talk human being to human being. The differences between all seem intractable, until you realize that the differences are mainly situational and historic. Stripped of their context, each and every group with a steak in Israel and Jerusalem wants the same thing: to practice their way of life in peace, harmoniously with the others.

That vision, however, will not come about until all sides can see it. Right now, the blinders of justification, of right of ownership, of sanctity, of tradition, of history -- all these stand as walls separating the parties from the peace they seek. What they fail to realize, is that they are all on the same side of the wall. The wall was built hand-in-hand, to keep everyone away from what they all wanted most. In that vein, together, they could tear the wall down quicker and easier than they erected it. Even so, they continue their petty squabbles and posturing, none willing to admit the reality of the situation and break from thousands of years of strife.

The Muslim and The Jew can live in peace. The Israeli and The Palestinian can have their own autonomy and common ground. Christian, Jew, and Muslim can worship freely in Jerusalem. All that is required is slipping the bonds that hold them all to the yolk of history. Putting aside the divisiveness, removing the blinders, all can tear down the wall. But who will blink first? Who is most willing to make the greatest gamble for peace? The current Israeli government is fiercely standing its ground, waving an olive branch from behind a strong line of pride. Hamas and Fatah have made overtures to burying their differences to work toward unity, but they are not on an equal footing yet.

The person or group that steps forward and puts aside completely their enmity for the other, the side that lays down its guns and raises its hands, will go down in history as the peacemakers. This should be impetus enough, but if further convincing is required, one only needs to think of peace, of the idea that Israeli and Palestinian could walk the streets without fear, that commerce would flow freely between both groups and create further prosperity, and that the cessation of hostilities would bring peace not just to one nation, but allow it to spread throughout the Middle East.

This moment favors the bold -- who will show the courage to seize it?

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