Peace in the Middle East and Unicorn Rides
As Israel resumes air strikes against Lebanon, after a brief pause of bombing, most of us are left wondering if peace in the Middle East is as possible as catching a unicorn ride to Narnia. And yet, as Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua recently put it, “I can be a pessimist for myself, but I have to be optimistic for [my grandchildren]. I have to keep the spirit.”
Here’s how I keep the spirit. I remember during the late '90s sitting in a room full of young girls that were Palestinian and Jewish Israeli. They were in a conflict-negotiation discussion in a camp bunk at Seeds of Peace, a camp in Maine committed to bringing kids from warring nations together. They played soccer, put on talent shows, played Marco Polo, and discussed their mixed feelings about each other under the guidance of a trained mediator.
The girls were brutally honest with one another. A Palestinian girl described how her brother was killed by an Israeli who threw a rock through his bedroom window at night and hit him in the head. An Israeli girl described the frequency of hearing bombs go off on buses and being terrified to even be near one. All these girls were, justifiably, angry. They felt fear and frustration and even hatred. But they sat in that room and talked it out. They asked one other questions, they listened. Sometimes they lost their tempers and yelled, but then they took a deep breath and resumed talking. By the end of the summer, many of them would be friends, crying as they hugged and promising to visit one another.
I was not naïve. I realized that many of those Jewish girls would join the Israeli army, potentially killing the families of their new friends. And it would be nearly impossible to remain friends, as parents refused to drive them to enter the “other’s” neighborhood so the girls could see each other. They would get caught up in their families’ bitter hatred.
But what I saw in that bunk, so many miles away from their home, was the possibility for peace. Not as a rare as a unicorn ride. And it helps me keep the spirit.
What do you do?