"As this is being written, the explosive situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians is still raging. Who knows when it will end? Who imagined that things would get this way just when it seemed some trustworthy action was being taken to bring these two peoples to a rational agreement so that a bona fide Palestinian state could be formed and coexist in this war-battered Holy Land? I must confess that even I, after so many conflicts and set-backs at the peace table, believed some resolution to this long-standing peace proces was finally not only possible, but actually beginning to happen. And now as the world can see, the entire process is in ashes. Never prior to this outhreak have I seen hopes this high dashed this low.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we truly want peace. There are some who say, "If we cannot have all, we will never accept less." Others, as a result of the bitter struggle and losses, seem to be saying, "we will not stop until we have everything in our control." Still others seem to be saying, "enough, already, let´s stop this senseless killing which is getting us nowhere."
I could go on with a number of other opinions that we hear voiced from both sides, but won´t. My point is, that it is not just two sides, but many. There are peacemakers and warriors, perpetrators and victims under both flags. And to complicate matters, we Arab, Israeli citizens are caught in between - virtually disenfranchized in the decision-making arena, second class citizens in our own land. Who hears our voice? The plurality of players in this desperate drama pits power against the powerless.
But this in itself may offer some hope for a change, some hope for light at the end of the tunnel, for the more voices, the more questions, the more openness and publicity the realities on the ground receive, the better the chance of a more viable coalition in the near term. Those of you reading this are familiar with my message. For 23 years I have felt the only way to peace is for those who have been victimized since 1948 and even before, to share the land, to come to terms with ourselves and to learn to forgive. The dynamic of peace is neither easy nor is it merely humanistic.
There is no realistic way the clock can be turned back. Demolished homes can be rebuilt, but human losses and infury can not be fully compensated. What satisfaction can we hope for in terms of justice denied for over a half century? What world court has the magic formula for restoring to its rightful heirs the land deeded by our fathers to their grandchildren? And how would that work out with those who have, by fiat or force, occupied the land and a generation of whose children have been born and raised in the political state of Israel?
Two wrongs cannot make a right. Somewhere the killings must stop. The question is, what can break the circuit and cool things down before we all kill each other? The conquest of another´s land by sheer power is neither wise nor possible in a nuclear age.
My own sense of things is that somehow there is timing of human events like Ecclesiastes asserts - "a time for war, and a time for peace." (3:8b). The time for peace must be under some divinely given orders. Are we praying for peace? Peace must not be defined only in terms of cessation of hostilities or open warfare. Nor can it be accomplished by retribution, or mere restoration, since neither may effectively apply after several generations. I venture to say from experience that peace, in fact, is humanly impossible. If it were possible, we would have long ago devised a way.
It is by way of truth that we have any hope of life free from the fears born of our inhumanity to each other. The way by which I hold my enemy down, keeps me down as well. Peace cannot, however, be made apart from the human willingness to let it happen - a willingness, I might add, that will not take place until we learn to forgive the hurt we have suffered or been a part of and accept losses however horrendous. That can never happen apart from a change of heart prompted by our awareness that where there is no justice, peace is far from our grasp. And where there is no forgiveness, justice too is beyond reach. The lesson of our day is undeniably costly. The question of our day is why should we keep paying and never learn?"
The House of Hope
The House of Hope was founded in 1978 and is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the realisation of peace and cooperation based on mutual understanding between Arabs and Jews. Here people of differing beliefs, cultures and traditions can meet and listen to each other, and destructive stereotypes, defenses and passions be addressed and worked out through establishing substantive and constructive dialogues.
The House of Hope is planning the establishment of the First International Peace Academy in the Middle East in Shefar´mer.
The House of Hope welcomes anyone who may wish to visit the centre and invites visitors to share their own experiences of peacemaking and conflict resolution by offering valuable counsel, materials and suggestions. Among the many House of Hope activities are:
* Sponsoring cultural and educational exchanges between Arab and Jewish children and youth including Summer Peace Camps;
* Providing courses in youth leadership for both Arabs and Jews;
* Establishing an intercultural women´s group for peace and conflict resolution
* Establishing a Peace Kindergarten to begin early childhood development in a cooperative vs. competitive peace curriculum and setting;
* Providing speakers on peace dialogue for community groups, professional associations and universities in Israel and abroad;
Contact: THE HOUSE OF HOPE, International-Peace Centre, PO Box 272, Shefar´am ISRAEL