A politico on the radio this morning attempted to explain the real reason behind the lack of peace in the Middle East. I had to shut it off because it’s pretty hard to pontificate from an ivory bubble and actually get it right.
You can’t understand the conflict unless you’ve a) been to Israel and b) read quite a bit of history.
The other day, I met with my wonderful publisher, David Crumm, an esteemed religion journalist for nearly three decades. A dedicated Christian, David shared his perspective about why there needs to be an Israel. He based it in his deep knowledge of the situation and the people and the history in the region and the world.
That kind of respectful conversation heartens me. We can begin to understand all sides. We can begin to move toward peace.
Israel is a tiny slice of land. Its identity as a Jewish state grew out of the ashes of World War II, the most devastating in a series of persecution-driven conflicts involving the Jews of the world. In short: most people throughout history wanted my people wiped out.
For what reason, really? How can you wish genocide on anyone? How can you ever justify killing ONE person, let alone a whole people?
I can’t. I can’t look into the pool-like eyes of another person, regardless of whether their skin looks like mine or we believe in the same God, and wish their life to end. (Which I believe we all do, but that’s another blog.) It hurts me to even write the words.
Even if I don’t know them.
Each person is an incarnation of the holy. Each beating heart grew out of love, nurtured at a mother’s breast, seeing only the good in the world. We learn to hate. We are not born hating.
Israel must exist because, after seeing all the reports of anti-Semitic rampage and hatred in places like cosmopolitan Paris, France, I am reminded of how many times my people has been chased out, beaten down, burned and otherwise persecuted. And I know I need a safe haven in this world.
Yes, I live in America, and I am proud to do so. My people can ask for random days off of work claiming religious observance and be granted their request because we live in a country that espouses freedom of religion. We can walk along public streets carrying odd objects to observe our holidays, and we are not gunned down.
We even have the freedom to cloister ourselves away from the rest of the world and say awful things about the government in belief that God is supreme. I don’t subscribe to this, but we have the freedom in this country to do it.
However, if we are to drive to small backwater towns and proclaim we are Jews, we may not be welcomed. We may encounter people who still believe Jews killed Jesus (Note: it was the Romans. Sorry to burst the bubble.). Who still believe we have horns lurking in our curly hair.
Israel is the best example of strength I have ever known. Out of the ashes of extreme horror and tragedy grew a nation that is not only self-sufficient, it’s brilliant and majestic and strong and compassionate. One life lost is a whole world lost. A nation that fights to recover one living breathing soul because we are all part of the same tribe.
And a nation where even while its most religious citizens don’t recognize its statehood, it still protects them because we are brethren.
Why is this tiny country such a threat? Why call for its destruction in your very charter of existence? Think about that: in Hamas’ constitution, its raison d’être is to bring about the annihilation of another people. Who defines themselves in juxtaposition with another?
The reason there is no peace in the Middle East is because we’re not speaking the same language. Us: every life is precious. Them: every life can be sacrificed for the cause. Us: we’re willing to talk peace. Them: die.
There’s no common ground to begin a conversation. You can’t trust an opposing party that wishes you dead.
I am a daughter of the 20th century, but my soul goes back to Sinai. I’ve lived through many conflicts, and I have a feeling I was there during the Holocaust and didn’t make it out alive. I feel it in my bones…I’ve had dreams at night about Cossacks banging down my door.
All I ask is to be allowed to be who I am. Is that asking so much? Can’t we afford that simple wish to every person on the planet? Is it really such a threat? How does it even affect you?
The truth is, it doesn’t. Put down the fear-sheathed sword and look into the eyes of your opponents. They look strikingly similar. And that’s where we begin the conversation.