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''Peace comes from the heart''

Printed on Monday, March 24, 2003 @ 01:10:31 CST  By Ari Greenblatt Guest Columnist (Israel)

( Peace comes from the heart. It cannot be imposed, nor can it be politically induced.

The Palestinian-Israeli struggle for land and homeland seems to be entering yet another loop in a never-ending spiral. In times likes these, there is an existential sense of longing for a solution, any solution, to break the cycle. Alas, no end seems in sight. Yet this terrible conflict, with its awesome toll in human suffering, has not been in vain. I believe that slowly the hearts and minds of the Israeli people are adjusting to the truth of the Palestinian plight. Certainly, people will outwardly insist on towing the line of hating "the other side," but that secret realm in people's hearts is growing ever wider as one is exposed to the heart rending personal tragedies that this bitterness has left in its wake.

After ages of suffering, the Jews were granted the gift of a homeland. Now that violence has escalated in this land, Israeli Jews should be asking themselves: How can this state called Israel, this precious place to call home after thousands of years of insane suffering and insecurity, become compatible with the region? How can a situation be achieved where Israel as a state can blend into a state of harmony with its neighbors? How can this terrible situation be undone, where a Jewish homeland must of necessity be a thorn in the eyes of its neighbors? How can the tank in Ramallah be exchanged for a symbol of peace?

Knowing, as a Jew, that history has been unkind to us, means to learn to appreciate the notion of a place to feel safe. Yet, at the same time, it becomes clearer every day that this comfort has been achieved by creating the opposite scenario for many others, namely depriving the Palestinian people of their sense of homeland. For the believing Jew, who searches for God's benevolent hand through the workings of history, this is indeed a perplexing situation, one that cannot easily grant one any sense of comfort.

In the eyes of many religious Israeli Jews, God has brought the people of Israel back to this land, to finally allow us to enjoy some respite from the precarious existence of life in exile. Unfortunately, this very situation has now been imposed on others. Even further compounding the situation is that Palestinians inherently worship and revere the very same God as do the Jews.

In Jewish eyes, if there is a religious mandate at all in the Jewish presence in the Middle East, surely it should take on a more moral form. Politicians have tried to solve the conflict at times, always leading towards a stalemate. What ingredients are lacking?

This quandary is a deep one, one that can only be solved by drawing strength from deep within the human soul. It is utterly useless and even blasphemous to brand the Palestinians as not deserving a state of their own, to debate their political or national identity, to play God, or to offer them to make do with some sort of semi autonomy. These ramblings do not relate to the main issue. The issue at hand is the state of the souls of the human beings of the region, of our own children and of future generations.

The essence of the solution lies in that realm untouched and indeed unreachable by the regions' politicians: the realm of the human heart. The time has come for a new movement to take form in Israel. There has been enough dying, enough corpses and enough destruction. The time has come to take a deep breath and begin drawing strength from inner sources.

Thus, a new vision should be created, one that will probably take decades to come to fruition. A cycle of respect needs to replace the cycle of violence. How should such a cycle be created? Is this idea purely delusional? If we continue on our present path then indeed it would seem so, but there are powers within the human soul that need to be addressed in order to cope with the conflagration that is overcoming us with its shadow. These are the deeper sides of the human spirit that require tremendous energy to harness. Therefore, in the natural sway of events, one would not seek to emphasize these deeper aspects, but given the perplexity of the tragedy there is no choice. The following paragraphs outline an approach to a solution.

I truly believe that the guiding hand of God has brought the Jews back to an ancient homeland, but so much time has passed that others also call this land home. I truly believe that the suffering of the Jews over thousands of years, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust, gave the United Nations the final push to vote the State of Israel into existence; however, the Islamic world is paying the collective price for this solution even though they were never the main cause of Jewish suffering. Is it any wonder that the Arab and Islamic world is stirred up, aroused and outraged? As for us Jews, we bear terrible scars, many of us still living within the shadows of past persecution, seeing everyone around us as a potential killer. This is the state of our souls, of our hearts, where it is so painful to tread. Yet tread we must if we are to emerge from this madness, almost as if a heavenly hand is reaching down and forcing us to this conclusion.

In my vision of a "redeemed Israel" we would have a Jewish state with a large distinguished Arab minority, alongside a Palestinian state with a people ennobled by terrifying struggle and suffering. We would have our hearts open to each other. We, the Jews, have a faith so close to Islam. In my vision, the Jewish people would become more in touch with their own roots, their source. We would have a country that invests in appreciating Islamic culture, we would have schools that make Arabic a compulsory language to learn, a society that would learn to appreciate and respect the subtle nuances of Arabic music, poetry and romance, that are foreign to the Western mind.

My son has just returned from Poland. It is a tradition amongst Jewish schools in Israel for teenagers to visit the remains of Nazi concentration camps, to learn to appreciate why "we are here" in our own homeland. In my dream, I would rather send my son to witness the suffering of the needy in Dehaisha and Balata, while Palestinian children would travel to Poland to try and grapple with this terrible paradox of why their homes were taken from them.

In my dream, I would embrace my Palestinian neighbor and cry on his shoulder: "Oh my Brother, your land has been taken, yet I beseech you. Do not regard me as a thief but rather as one who sought refuge and who fought so fiercely, not from cruelty, but rather from fear of the images of the past that still haunt me." In my minds eye, I would call to my brother, son of Abraham and say to him, "We have returned to this ancient holy homeland. It is indeed a gift to us from merciful Allah; we accept this in true humility by turning to you and saying to you, 'let us give heed to Adl' -- justice, in Arabic. Arise, dust yourself from your shame, let us share this land as equals -- it is the will of God."

According to an ancient Jewish legend, two farmers had adjacent fields of wheat and barley. A season came where the barley crop of one farmer failed and the wheat crop of the other farmer was destroyed. Yet, amazingly, both farmers found their barns full of wheat and barley. One night the two secretly snuck out to each other's barns, with one bearing barley and the other bearing wheat, in order to fill each other's barns with sincerity. But the two accidentally stumbled across each other on the way. When they met, they were overcome with joy and hugged each other. According to this tradition. God looked down and said, "On this spot, will I build my temple." -- Jerusalem - Al Quds.

[Ari Greenblatt is a South African Jew who has lived with his wife and children in Israel for the last 20 years. Holding a BA (Computer Science) he operates as a Computer Software entrepreneur, developing service customer software for the local market. Ari dedicated five years to study in yeshivot (orthodox Jewish religious academies) from which he attained the title of Rabbi.]

Ari Greenblatt encourages your comments:


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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