As Israelis who love our country, we feel passionately that Israel is hurting herself by the military incursion into the Gaza Strip. The notion had by Hamas and the Israeli government alike that the conflict between us will be solved through war and bombs is completely false. It has been tried for six decades, since Israel ’s birth—IT DOES NOT WORK!
We respect the many Israelis, including military personnel, protesting the actions taken now by our government. For example, there is Gideon Levy who, in an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (12-29-08) wrote:
“Once again, Israel ’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom. What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country….
Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily spilled on our side.”
Sadly, Mr. Levy was right. And at this time, nearly 800 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed; over 3,000 Palestinians have been wounded. Among the dead and injured are many Palestinian children.
We say this: There will be no peace until Palestinians and Israelis have good will for each other, and see it as their strength. And the first thing in good will is the desire to understand. Nothing else can end three generations of mutual retaliation and hate. Once we did not see this, as most people don’t, because the meaning of good will as tough, practical, is not understood.
The education Aesthetic Realism, founded in 1941 by the American poet and critic Eli Siegel, taught us how to have a deeper, more accurate way of seeing the Palestinian people, and brought out our desire to be fair to them. We learned that in every person, including ourselves, there is a battle between the desire to look down on others, have contempt — which is “the addition to self through the lessening of something else” — and the desire to see value and meaning in other people, and want to strengthen them. We, the Jews, who suffered persecution and the concentration camps, should be the first people to understand the Palestinian people’s yearning for a homeland.
In an article titled, “The Only Answer to the Mideast Crisis,” printed in the New York Times in 1990 as an advertisement, Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, wrote: “The Mideast situation will not be solved until individuals are trying to see the many people different from themselves as being, also, full individuals real as themselves.” And she recommended that every person in the concerned nations write a soliloquy of 500 words, as deeply as he or she can, describing the feelings of a person in the opposing nation. Palestinians would write about Israelis, and Israelis would write about Palestinians. The soliloquies would be read on radio and television, and commented on, so that persons will have a chance to say whether they feel they are described rightly.
Writing this soliloquy changed each of us profoundly. And twenty-one years ago, on January 7, 1988, in a letter some of us sent to members of the Israeli Knesset, we told about what we learned, and said in part:
“As we thought of a Palestinian person more deeply, granted him the reality he deserves — we came to see this important fact: we are more the same than different….What does a young Arab in Rafiah hope for? What is a mother in Deir el Balah afraid of? Aren’t their feelings as real as ours? Isn’t their love as passionate as ours? For the sake of our country…and for the sake of the people suffering now in the Gaza Strip, every Israeli, every member of the government, every soldier in the army has to write such a soliloquy. We urge you to begin it immediately.”
The Holy Land, ever so rich with history and culture and treasured by both peoples, should lead the world in showing the urgency of good will—the only means for lasting peace in the Middle East!