Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

A Third Narrative

There needs to be a new, third narrative that bridges the chasm between the Palestinian narrative and the Israeli narrative.

Bereaved Circle—Families Forum ( gives us help in this. After Rami Elchana and Nurit Peled-Elchana lost their daughter to a Palestinian suicide bomber, they were eventually led to appear with Palestinians who lost their children to the warfare.

Listen to Nurit, Rami’s wife, tell this story:

When my little girl was killed, a reporter asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the other side. I replied without hesitation that I HAD refused to meet with the other side: when Ehud Olmert, then the mayor of Jerusalem came to offer his condolences, I took my leave and would not sit with him.
For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people. For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs. The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war. My people are those who seek peace. My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps. My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so. Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues, there is more that unites us than that which divides us (Peled-Elchana, 2001).

Mark Braverman (Fatal Embrace: Christians and Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, pp. 259,260), also reports the article by Sara Roy in the January 2, 2009 Christian Science Monitor entitled “Israel’s ‘Victories’ in Gaza Come at a Steep Price”:

I hear the voices of my friends in Gaza as clearly as if we were still on the phone; their agony echoes inside me. They weep and moan over the death of their children, some, little girls like mine, taken, their bodies burned and destroyed so senselessly.
In nearly 25 years of involvement with Gaza and Palestinians, I have not had to confront the horrific image of burned children—until today. What will happen to Jews as a people, whether we live in Israel or not?
Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them with our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.
Our rejection of ‘the other’ will undo us. We must incorporate Palestinians and other Arab peoples into the Jewish understanding of history, because they are a part of that history. We must question our own narrative and the one we have given others, rather than continue to cherish beliefs and sentiments that betray the Jewish ethical tradition. Israel’s victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust? As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as a people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered and also human? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain?
The answer will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.

And here is Mr. Braverman’s comment on the above illustrations: It’s life or death. It’s our choice between a commitment to empire or to our future as members of a human community. A persistent, steadfast focus on this choice must inform the activities of our faith communities if these religious traditions are going to not only ‘survive’ but be a force for the survival of our species on this planet (Ibid, p. 260).

Order Mark Braverman’s book from his website:
Sara Roy is with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

No comments: