Tuesday, July 2, 2013

First Report Study Tour, 6/13

Dear Friend,

I'm back in the US after two weeks in I/P. Our group of 16 is processing who we've met and what we've learned.

The July 1 NY Times ("Mideast Chaos Grows as US Focuses on Israel") questions Sec. Kerry's seeming priority of getting the two sides together for substantive talks. (Of course we can't ignore the chaos in both Egypt and Syria).

We did encounter a lack of urgency even among some Israelis and Palestinians. Modern Tel Aviv bustles with no Palestinians in sight. Yet, new leaders, the young Turks among the Palestinians, demand systemic changes and desire renewed efforts toward the Two State solution.

We found that the overriding issue among Israelis is security. Among the Palestinians the issue is justice. This morning I was reminded of an unforgettable story from Henri Nouwen's book Lifesigns (Doubleday, pp. 110, 111). Know that I'm taking great liberty in adapting it to our region.

Once there was a people who looked at "their" country and said to each other, “How will we have enough when the Native people demand their own State?”

So they started hoarding the Native's land, water, homes and freedom of movement.

The Native people protested, “You have more than you need. What is more, you are taking what is legitimately ours”

The First Staters replied, “No, no, we need to have these reserves in case things go bad and our lives are threatened.”

But the Natives said, “We are dying now. We can’t wait any longer. You keep treating us as illegitimate terrorists.”

Then the fearful First Staters became even more afraid of attack. So they said, “Let’s build walls so ‘other’s’ can’t take from us.”

The walls became so high they couldn’t see the ‘others’ anymore, and their fears increased.

“Our enemies may get stronger and tear down our walls. We need guided missiles so that ‘they’ won’t dare even come close to us.”

But instead of feeling safer and more secure, they found themselves trapped in the prison they had built with their own fear.

This story illumines the dilemma between the Israelis and Palestinians. Fear builds walls. Love builds bridges. Fear hides our vulnerabilities. Love admits our wounds. The image of God in you and the image of God in me wants respect on a deep level. How big is "family"? And who is my "neighbor"? Fear and threats are obstacles. Trust building actions lead the way to deeper engagement. Trust has to be earned. Is there enough trust between us? Can neighbors believe in the good intentions of the other side?

Pray for gifted leaders who are in touch with their extreme elements, yet press forward to stake out common ground with "the enemy", so we can live side by side, respecting the boundaries/borders that give us both legitimacy.