Another year and another exhausting, traumatic period in Middle East war. Were it not for the calendar, it would seem as though there is an endless streak of fighting, perhaps with intermittent pauses for ceasefires, only to be rekindled again by provocative Israeli settlements being built or provocative Palestinian rocket attacks.
What is it between these two people that makes hatred run so deep that they risk their own lives and those of their children for this land? Why, when other neighbors in deep conflict, even those fueled by religious passions, finally resolve to have peace, such as Ireland's Catholics and Protestants have done?
Perhaps the answer may have more to do with ethnic diversity and an intolerance of accepting it. According to recent polls, Israelis don't want Palestinians to mix in their society. They generally want to keep them quarantined from the rest of the country. Meanwhile, Palestinians have an equal distaste for living with Israelis. Generally this type of intolerance is rooted in ignorance. And masking that ignorance is fear, which manifests itself as lashing out with biases, bombs and bullets.
If both sides were to engage in honest dialogue to understand firstly that neither side is devilish, secondly that neither can figure out at this time a nonviolent solution to the threats both sides pose to the other, and thirdly that both have suffered and continue to suffer over the conflict, it's possible that some daylight might be found on which to build a lasting peace. For example, many in Israel as well as a slew of Arab nations such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai consider the extremist Islamic groups, not Israelis or Palestinians, to be their greatest enemies.
It is plausible to see that if these extremists grab more power in Syria and Iran and then spread further, the world will be even more dangerous than it is now. Specific to the region, the Palestinians are vulnerable to ISIS, just as they proved to be to Hamas.
With the change in oil politics and the subsequent weakening of adversaries who depend on oil revenues to leverage their power over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, plus the threat of Islamic extremists gaining stronger footholds in the Middle East, now is a good opportunity to reach across the table and talk about solutions for Gaza.
But back to that "melting pot" concept. Diversity can build up a society by opening people's minds to new ways of thinking as well as by fostering a greater appreciation of cultural traditions. Not only that, it is necessary. There can only be peace between the Israelis and Palestinians when both sides take stock of their hard feelings about diversity. There has to be a softening, one that leads toward a prudent path for reconciliation, because the alternative of pushing for surrender is too costly.
Self-awareness is usually thought of in terms of an individual knowing themselves. But it can also be applied to nations. The Israelis and Palestinians have lost their way. And who wouldn't after so many decades of conflict and tragedy. After all, they are only human. That's such an obvious statement but one easily cast aside in the fog of war. Both sides recognizing, despite their differences, each other as being made up of only people, vulnerable and afraid yet committed to their view of justice, is a starting point.
This may all sound warm and fuzzy. Idealistic, even. But I'll refrain from quoting verses from John Lennon's "Imagine" for some perspective. Instead, you can find your own reason to believe in peace and hope.