My wife and I are in preparations for a trip to Israel, the Holy Land, Eretz Yisroel. It will be the 4th time in a year and a half, because we are parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of family in Israel, and because, as long as we can, we want to be at every simcha.
Did we realize when two of our five children made aliyah that our lives would change with theirs? I suppose so, but as the children grew, there were bar mitzvahs, weddings, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and it has come to determine our lives. It is now only a question of “When is the next trip?” We are not complaining, just reporting, and we were fortunate to do a lot of trips to Europe when we could. I led over 10 trips for seniors to Israel and Europe, and while there are still destinations that I have on my “bucket list,” I know in my heart, that my priority will be to go to Israel.
A great part of every trip is making a political assessment. I want to be able to share what I see. I have been hoping that in one of these trips that have spanned from 1972 to now – well over 40 of them – that I could come up with some idea that might actually bring the Israelis and Palestinians together, in a world that must come about.
Everyone who has experienced Israel realizes that “what is” cannot “to be.” So come along with me on this tour of Israel that I believe has credibility and promise.
You must meet me at the Mamillia Hotel in Jerusalem, just off Jaffa Street, and one of the entrances to the Mamillia Mall. I have invited, including you, the movers and shakers of the peace process. I have told them nothing in preparation. They have come, partially, because I sought out people of note to get them to come, and because they understand that the present situation in Israel simply will not move us forward.
Its basis is hatred, fear, distrust and denial, and hopefully, they believe there might be something in the idea they are willing to hear. Perhaps we have attracted them just to hear what we have to say, and that might correspond to your taking the time to finish reading this article.
I greet them all, and allow for a short self-introduction of each participant. Then I ask them to follow me into the mall, walking slowly to see what is going on, and importantly, who else is in the mall.
Our destination is Cafe Ramon, where the table has been set for 40. I ask them to look at the menus – which are in more than one language – and to order. Everyone can order, because the menu makes it possible for Jews of every stripe and kind, Arabs – both Muslim and Christian – to eat together, and also to look around and observe that at other tables, there are Arabs, Israelis and Jews of every kind seated and having lunch.
This might be enough, without any discussion. Imagine a place in Israel, in Jerusalem, where everyone who chooses can come, walk, shop, talk and eat without any fear of problems. But, of course, there will be discussion about what it means. The Mamillia Experience proves that there can be a “world” within the conflict, where everyone can co-exist. Not every Jew will choose to come because there are no dress codes. That could be true as well for conservative Arabs who will be sitting next to more liberal Arab women who are indistinguishable in the crowd in the mall and at the restaurant.
The important part to me, at least, in my simplistic tour, is that everyone has chosen where to sit, what to eat, and has come by choice, and can leave by choice. We are not there to find resolution to the very serious decisions on who will rule where, or whether there can be neighborhoods where Arabs and Israelis will live together. But, we are existing at the same table in the same city, without armed guards, screaming, hurling curses or all of the negatives that historically have always occurred. It is simply an indication of a world in which we can co-exist while we work on some of the real and heady issues that need to be addressed.
Progress will have a cost, as it always does. It cannot realistically come about, if one side has to win every issue. Israelis, without the unifying hatred of Arabs, will have to face and work on their own set of issues, like military responsibility and secular-religious conflict. It is possible, that after everyone sees from our lunch experience that serious issues can be handled seriously without threat, that there will be other meetings to “work things out.”
I have always believed that the reason we have complex issues, which seem unresolvable is simply because we were unwilling to face the consequences of dealing with the simple truths. There are some simple truths we should not, cannot avoid. Winning the war and winning the peace are two different issues. Israel won the wars, but now they must win the peace.
There once was the “Marshall Plan” after the cessation of the World War II. There was no question about who won the war, but rather who would “win that peace.” We had the example of World War I to demonstrate what happens when all of the factors are not resolved. There were people, probably in the majority, who wanted the Axis to suffer in defeat. The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and Asia was not immediately popular, but as we “read backward,” we see that it was vital for peace to exist, even when challenged by the Soviet Bloc.
History itself is “revealed backward, but lived forward.” We want Israel to exist, peace to blossom, and until it works for everyone, it cannot. This does not mean simply “giving in,” but it does mean that the issues are real and need to be reasonably dealt with.
As always, I would like to hear what you think.
Howard W. Karsh lives and writes in Milwaukee, Wisc., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submitted Nov. 20, 2013.
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[whohit]A New Peace Plan For Israel And The Palestinians[/whohit]