The paradox of peace in Israel is that peace is both present right now - and made 'impossible' by those responsible for its negotiation.
Last week I had a Facebook conversation with an Israeli friend of mine living in Tel Aviv, Ofer Weissmann, Insight Israel City director. I'd like to open this up to the readers here.
We are both ordinary people looking at the same thing from very different perspectives. Ofer (seen above with his wife, Inbal at a place where rockets now land) is right in the middle, I am gazing helplessly on. We are not pundits, politicians or prelates. Those in power use their power to make peace impossible. Peace will only become possible when those who put them in power radically change the fundamental conversations. If we can move away from what's causing the strife (mainly politics and religion) and, without disrespecting either, discuss the psycho-spiritual process by which any one or group of human beings can create wealth, health and fulfillment then there is hope.
Forgiveness is neither the prerogative of a 'holy man' to bestow on us in God's name, nor a weakness practiced by cowards. It is the obsession with reliving past horrors and wreaking revenge that is one of mankind's greatest weaknesses. Forgiveness, letting the past go and living in the present has always been man's most noble quest.
'The recent war (or "operation" as we call it) in Gaza is an unfortunate example of a lose-lose game played by both sides (and, of course, there are more than two sides in this deadly game). On my way home, the other day, I realized how surreal reality here is in Israel. The electronic signage on the highway says "in case of an alarm, stop the car and take shelter" - this is near my hometown, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem!
I recall driving from Columbus, OH to New York (when I lived in the US), and the signage was related to ice on the road... Imagine YOU had to run to a sheltered room in your home on a daily basis (or even having such a room) - this was the daily routine of the south of Israel for years. What is new is that now the whole country is in the range of the rockets from Gaza. As I was writing this, there was a siren and I went to the shelter at work....
While I try to maintain a "normal" life in this abnormal situation, many "Insight lessons" come to mind. The first is "if you keep doing what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten". Both Israel and the Hamas were enslaved by old paradigms: Israel's siege combined with "iron dome" were supposed to be a sufficient deterrent combined with economic pressure supposedly leading to the Palestinian Authority, the local Gaza population, and "the world" taking charge over Hamas in Gaza.
On the other side, Hamas, funded by Iran and Qatar (and supported by Turkey) offered the local population a vision of freeing them from "occupation" by means of armed struggle. It seems we (both) kept "doing what does not work" and expecting a different outcome (bringing to mind Einstein's definition of insanity).
When we do the "resentment" piece we see resentment as a saviour of an image in light of negative actions (by others). Unfortunately in Israel many of us EXPECT the Arabs in general and Hamas in particular to be disloyal, murderous, hateful opponents (including our own Arab citizens). Even the "left wing", "peace now" supporters are having a hard time maintaining a balanced image in light of some atrocious acts by Arabs. I am sure the Arab population is just as offended by Jewish "price tag" activity, let alone the recent heinous murder of an Arab teenager by Jewish fanatics.
There is an inherent imbalance between the ability of the Right wing and that of the Left wing in presenting their vision. The Right can produce real-life examples of negativity and generate fear much easier than the Left can promote a not yet tested view of "the other side" as a partner to peace.
In the "game of life*" that is played out in the Middle East many lose their life! Looking from "outside" it seems that both sides are evenly eager to vote Red*, so here I must correct a misconception - the Hamas official position is that "there is no Black*" on the scoring board.
Many people in Israel and around the world demand an end to "the occupation" (me among them), but "beware what you wish for..." and "be specific" is prudent advice. The official position of Hamas is that THE WHOLE OF ISRAEL (not the area occupied in 1967) is OCCUPIED territory. Israel's official position is that we want peace (though not always showing it in the choices we make). Thus, when you join the call to free the occupied territory, be specific... I vote Black and wish for a Palestinian nation state bordering Israel that sees Israel as a legitimate entity and fosters peaceful coexistence as the only vision worth aiming for.
And last, I am reminded with the sentence "he who has the awareness has the responsibility". It may be the case that many people on both sides cannot even fathom the vision of a peaceful coexistence of our two nation states side by side, but many do... We, on both sides, need to speak out, keep the vision, and call in the light for a quick return to sanity and to a win-win solution. A few years back I presented an IIWP workshop to a group of foreign volunteers in Jerusalem. Peace, I suggested, starts from within. I am ever grateful to Insight for introducing me to MY ability of creating peace inside, so that I can maintain a clear vision (and intention) for peace outside.
Shortly, I understand, J-R and many other MSIA'ers will be visiting Israel. This cannot come at a better time... "Sharing the light" (as we say at graduation) is most needed when darkness falls upon us, and it is definitely a dark time in our neighborhood. I hope to meet them on this trip and share a prayer for peace.
Love & Light, Ofer
'Hi there Ofer and Inbal. I was very moved by your words and your clarity regarding the seemingly endless darkness, confusion, fear, misunderstanding, and what surely must be millennia of karma. I have no idea what it must be like to live under such constant threat. My late mother probably would - she lived through the blitz in London and nearly lost her life to a rocket landing on the building opposite her. We now have satellite TV, iPads and cell phones, but little progress!
Here's my approach, somehow the one way I feel I can make a contribution: For many years I have been attempting to fathom the cryptic symbology in the Bible, Genesis in particular. Combining what I have understood from J-R, it is terrifyingly clear to me that (amongst many other anomalies) the covenant between God and Abraham was not the divine right of one group of people or race to the physical land of Israel, but the right of all God's children to enter the 'Kingdom of heaven' - the true 'promised land'.
The name ISRAEL, far from meaning 'struggle with God' at a far deeper level, seems to be an acronym of Isis-Ra-Elohim, a fusion of Egyptian and Hebrew names of God - resolving the prophecy given to Rebecca (that two nations from her womb shall be divided) and foreshadowing the forgiveness of Jacob (Israel) and Esau.
My personal belief is that this crucial scripture says that even though 'peace is present' we cannot enter the present until we let go of the past - forgive. And until the belief underlying the hatred is replaced by true, evolved, understanding it is very hard to let go.
Although the religious/scriptural aspect is but one component in an unfathomably complex situation, the mutual exclusiveness of God's promise remains critically unexamined. It is still deployed as a justification for keeping, the impossibility and lose-lose approach alive. If the entire conversation about the deeper truth underpinning the ancient scripture were to change it will undermine what undermines peace. It will be slow. It will take many generations. But it must be begun.
I love you guys and hope to be with you in Jerusalem (City of peace) in September.
Love and light to you all. Paul.
Please enrich this conversation by commenting here.
Email me here and I'll happily send you a draft of my thesis: Original Heresy: The light behind the shadows in the Bible.
* 'Voting black' versus 'voting red' refers to an experiential metaphor in the Insight Seminar where the only way for anyone to win 'the game of life' is if people vote in a cooperative way so everyone wins. The overwhelming majority of people, when given a clear choice, unfailingly vote for their own personal self-interest and thus everybody loses, nobody wins!