Reading about the violence in Israel this week is almost unbearable. It makes me crazy. It exhausts me. It confounds me. I actually go through my own sort of modified Kubler-Ross stages dealing with it all.
First, I feel enormous anger at the perpetrators. These criminals are holding Jews hostage. People are afraid to leave their homes. My friend, Lior, talks about his teenage daughter and how scared she is to get on a bus. His brother, who owns a restaurant in Jerusalem, is distraught over how much business he’s losing. “I’ve been in an active combat regiment. I’ve been in the thick of war. And even I don’t like the creepy feeling of walking by myself on the street. It really is scary.”
Next I ask, why? How has this horrible state of affairs come to be? There are no simple answers – I wish there were. It would make it easier to contend that the violence is being systematically planned by Hamas, that these knife wielders are being trained. But so far, that does not appear to be the case.
Maybe what’s moving these random people to commit random acts of violence is the pernicious Islamist interpretation of violence as a holy deed. To become a martyr leads one to eternal reward. So why not?
Or perhaps the violence is the result of a steady diet of nothing but despair for Palestinian young people. There has been almost nothing produced in the last several years that gives even the glimmer of hope. When the world becomes monochromatic, nothing is worth living for, but a lot becomes worth dying for.
Then I get even angrier as I look at the profound weakness of political leadership in the Middle East. Abbas is utterly inept at best. At worst he repeats the hateful rumors of the street as his own justification for leadership. He claims that the Israelis want to take total control of the Temple Mount (a complete lie). He also said that Israel murdered a 13-year-old attempted murderer (there are actually photos of him alive and well in the hospital in the newspapers).
On the other side, Bibi has clung to the status quo, believing that as the world’s attention shifts to Syria and ISIS, he can stoke the Israeli economy and not even say the word Palestinian. Of course, he was correct. He could – and did get away from having to pay any serious attention to any dealings with the Palestinians. He could have used these past months to demonstrate bold leadership, to point to Israel as an evolving democracy willing to live up to its promise of bringing together all peoples of Israel.
My next stage is can we fix it? And I don’t know that either. As an Israeli opined on CNN, “We need to believe that Palestinians accept the basic concept of sharing this land. But weeks like this shake that foundational belief. We’ve seen too many ordinary people — a municipal worker, an employee at the phone company — perpetrate incomprehensible acts. We already live together, work together, walk past each other on the street every day. How can we be working toward a resolution, toward peace, if we fear the next passerby may just pull out a knife? We want to believe Palestinians have co-existence in their hearts.”http://goo.gl/xn30rk
Without a possibility of resolution, we are left with nothing but continuous struggle, hatred, and death. That is a possibility, a true outcome. But the price is so high and so dark. This leads to the next stage, which is to look for any signs of hope. And there are still signs: Kids 4 Peace, a program that brings Jewish and Palestinian kids together, says, “We don’t know what to say or do. The violence spreading across Jerusalem has filled the streets with suffering and fear. It can leave us paralyzed and speechless. As a community of Palestinians and Israelis, together with friends from around the world, we feel the pain of both sides like almost no one else. We have learned to trust and respect and love each other. We cling to our common humanity, our hope for peace, our rejection of violence, and our bedrock commitment to see the holiness – the image of God – in every human person, even our enemy.”
Another sign of hope is Yad B’Yad – Hand In Hand: “Our Mission at Hand in Hand is to create a strong, inclusive, shared society in Israel through a network of Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools and organized communities. We currently operate integrated schools and communities in five locations with 1,100 Jewish and Arab students and more than 3,000 community members. Over the next ten years, we aim to create a network of 10-15 schools, supported and enhanced by community activities, altogether involving more than 20,000 Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens.”
[We’ll be hosting a Palestinian parent and an Israeli teacher from Yad B’Yad during Friday night services on October 30 at 6:15]
That there are two or two hundred such programs in Israel does not erase the current fear. These programs do not make years of occupation evaporate. They do erase years of hatred preached from mosques and mullahs. And yet. Perhaps the greatest tragedy in this latest wave of attacks is the extent to which it pushes us further away, rather than closer to, a solution. And with all that, we are unwilling to give up hope. We can’t. We have to believe there is a solution. http://goo.gl/xn30rkEach one of these programs is a potential source of
And this where I end up, my final stage: I’m not willing to give up on the people. On the political hacks and opportunists, yes. But not the people, not the ones actually daring to step up beyond the status quo. I will continue to hope in them and with them, for something resembling peace.