The other day I had coffee with a friend after work. We both were in a state of anguish about the violence in Israel and Palestine. She confessed that she was feeling despair; how could things ever get better? What could possibly be the catalyst for real change?
I thought about all the postings I see on social media. Ever since we learned of the murder of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, and then the murder of Muhammed, and then the rockets and bombings, so much of the rhetoric has been justifying one side or the other or expressions of hopelessness. I feel the impact it has on my heart: I feel defended, closed, self-righteous. I experience how anger leads to more anger, despair to more despair. I feel my heart hardening into accepting the status quo cycles of violence and hatred as inevitable.
But it could be different.
How? I am so far away and so small. I am not naïve enough to think I can have any impact on Hamas or Netanyahu or anyone else who has power and weapons. And I am also not naïve enough to think that I am completely powerless.
If I want more hope, I have to add hope back into the system. If I want more openness to peace, I have to work on examples of openness to peace. If I want a vision of what could be possible in the turbulent land that I love with a full heart, then I have to speak out and encourage others to do the same.
A small example: Zena Schulman, our Communications and Development Associate, created an image last week of the four murdered boys along with quotes from their family members denouncing murder of any kind. Zena posted it on our Facebook page, where it was quickly picked up by a Jewish newspaper. A few days later I saw the image pop up on a friend’s timeline. She had seen it on the site of a reporter from Al Jazeera who had seen it from a retweeted source. Thousands and thousands of people from very different political perspectives shared that image. Zena’s picture had struck a chord of shared humanity.
Again, I don’t believe that these small tokens will stop the violence on the other side of the world. The only place I have (even a little) control is over my own heart and my own mind. But things are fundamentally interconnected. I see that beginning with my own body. When one part of my body is injured, other parts shift to compensate for it. Small things in one place create reactions in other places. And we can’t always predict how things will unfold.
We can indeed sit with anger, hatred and despair. And we can take political action in ways that make sense to us. But there is also something subversive about contributing to the discourse in a way that fosters the kind of openness that each side deplores the other side for lacking. Things do not have to be this way. I believe this with perfect faith.
If you agree, please add your voice. Let others know of your hope, your openness, your vision. Share examples of people you know who are living in Israel and Palestine and who inspire you in thinking things can be different, better. And God willing, may it soon be so.