Why is it important to know what is going on in Israel and Palestine? I mean, to see what really is going on? Not just the outside, the way the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians shows itself to the world, but the background?
It is important because, if we don’t know, we react in an impulsive way. This conflict is eliciting strong emotional responses in most of us. Anger, even rage and hate, may be aroused, causing aggression and prejudice. Of cause behind these reactions pain and grief are aroused, but not wanting to become fully aware of these we turn to more violent thoughts. This negative energy certainly will not bring peace nearer. According to some wise scholars this even indirectly contributes to processes of racism, animosity and even violence in the world. It is also not good for our own health and wellbeing.
It is an interesting question why this conflict arouses more violent emotions in us than other terrible conflicts in the world do (this is certainly true for me). This is a difficult question to answer, and an answer in depth exceeds the space of this column, but some hypotheses can be mentioned. One, I think this conflict connects with our collective guilt feeling about our own hidden racism and the holocaust. Two, this conflict is directly connected with our roots: our Christian and Jewish heritage. Our common history is stored in our genes.
Anyway, taking the effort to see the background of this conflict is a necessary prerequisite for a positive response for several reasons.
First, seeing what really is going on will lead to understanding of both sides. And understanding may help us to feel compassion for the direct and indirect victims – basically all people concerned. Actually, seeing, and keeping looking, even when it is becoming difficult, almost automatically will lead to compassion.
Secondly, seeing the background will give us hope. This may sound strange, because seeing what is going on will make us sad and despairing in the first place. In order to develop hope however we must first connect with our yearning for a better situation. And order to feel this, of course we first have to see the bad situation we want to escape from. Havel said that hope is a quality of the soul, and doesn’t depend on what is going on in the world. “Hope is working for something because it is good, apart from the effect.” That may be true, but this only works if it is preceded by a process of seeing the reality as it is (including ones own despair and rage) and longing for a better future (creating a vision). That process will elicit the motivation to move and to develop hope. Said differently: it will free vital energy.
Thirdly seeing the background is a learning process. It will teach us discernment, meekness, wisdom and peace of mind, especially when we observe our own reactions. It will help us not to judge prematurely, or to react too directly. And it also will help us to find what our heart and hand can do in the situation.
So we can develop compassion, hope and wisdom in stead of despair, anger and rage. Who doesn’t want that? We have to work for it however. As a first step I strongly recommend to do some research. Internet (wikipedia), papers and serious television programs are at your disposal. Of course you also will find biased information, but going on will enable you to separate the chaff from the wheat.
For Dutch readers: in my next blog I will give you some more information of the kind I described above, and help you with some links. For my English readers – you have to do it yourself, because my references will link to dutch articles. You will perfectly capable of doing that, I am sure – of course that is true for the Dutch as well , but I like to give some help 🙂 .
Follow up situation in Bethlehem: The situation in Bethlehem is somewhat better than two weeks ago. The school building is not damaged, and the staff and their family are not hurt. Hopefully the cease fire in Gaza will last; in that case the situation may become ‘normal’ in a few weeks.
(I apologize for mistakes in my English. Blogs are cursory – not stuff for correction by a native speaker).