Saturday, November 27, 2010

Engaging "The Other", Combatants for Peace

Dear Friend,
As you know, about 20 -30 pieces come across my screen each day. I read or scan many things from all sides of the "spectrum" (left and right).

In recent months, I'm concentrating on sending examples of persons who are making positive contributions to building bridges instead of walls.

Bill Plitt's reflections on a recent trip to our region are worth sharing. With thanks to the IPMN of the PCUSA (Isr/Pal Mission Network), Walt and Libby Davis, JRK

From: William Plitt
Date: November 25, 2010 4:37:38 AM PST

Subject: Thanksgiving morning

Dear friends,
Some of you know that I just returned from three weeks of travel in Israel and in Palestine.
(you can follow the trip in more detail than you might want in the blog: )

On my way home a week ago, I traveled from Bethlehem and the checkpoint there to West Jerusalem, and then by bus to an area close to Gaza where I met a young Israeli and former combatant in the Israeli Defense Force's special unit, the famed Golani Brigade. This experience with him which lasted only a few hours because of my scheduled flight home, turns out to be reflective of my whole experience collectively, and present with me each day I traveled.

This is my message this Thanksgiving morning
to each of you, faithful friends. "Thinking about the Other". A letter to Yaniv. Love, Bill

Good day, Yaniv.
In our country, this is the day some set aside to thank God for the blessings of our lives in a world faced with scarcity, and where we have plenty. I have much to be thankful for, including friends old and young. When I reflect on our few hours together a week ago, in your community on the edge of the Negev Desert in Israel, I realize the irony with which we both live in our world together.

We used, several times in our conversations, the phrase "the other". In fact,
it was from you I first heard the poem of Maqmood Darwish, "Thinking About the Other". I recite it often, and still carry the audio of your recitation with me.

I also reflected on three places that you took me to that afternoon, a week ago. First, to the herb stand, operated by this lone Bedouin young man, when I observed that you not only interacted with him personally in Arabic, but I could also sense by the tone of your voices that you both did so out of mutual respect. On your suggestion, I also purchased a bar of homemade olive oil soap, and an herbal pomade for massaging my wife's aching feet. Last night when I applied the pomade on her feet, I reflected on the interaction between the two of you, and for me, I would imagine that will be the case over the next several months, or until the jar
is empty, and beyond perhaps.

The second place you took me, was to the back of an empty store front parking lot where there is an Arab market, and off to the right, a lone store front with an open air sliding door. Under the protection of the roof of that building, was a woman who was roasting kabob over a smoking charcoal fire. You again, in your quiet, gentle way, ordered in the native tongue of the woman, two chicken schwarmas for us. She was openly pleasant and hospitable, though wearing the traditional scarf of the Arab woman. She was "The Other" referred by us several times that evening, and whom, Darwish spoke of in his poem, I suspect. We then proceeded yet to another location in that village that offered sweets by a young Arab from the Nablis area. I had to shake my head again. Where was I but in the realm of Israel. This was not suppose to be!

And lastly, you shared your efforts in the new job with the local school, predominately Bedouins, most likely, and how you were working with the young elementary students there on "environmental education" helping them define projects in which they invested in themselves. These students were also "The Other".

So, in a land of ironies, which I found not only in your community, but in several places where I traveled in my recent pilgrimage to Israel and the occupied territories, "unanticipated possibilities". The prospect of your coming together to work on the Nassar Family farm with the contingency of the Combatants for Peace members you coordinate (combined former Israeli soldiers, and Palestinian resistance men), also keeps hope alive for me, even in the midst of the darkness. I am grateful for your friendship and for your active ways of engaging with "The Others' in your world.

"................When you think about the others, the distant others, think about your self and say, "I wish I were a candle in the dark." Maqmood Darwish, Palestinian National Poet

Faithfully, Bill
Thanksgiving Day in America, Nov. 25, 2010

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