People often fail in their responsibilities to do good and to avoid hurting others. We get so caught up in our own agendas, both personal and political, that we lose sight of what is important. In the Middle East, it seems we have lost sight of peace and why it is important as well.
Peace in the Middle East should not be important because regional stability means low oil prices and because we have strategic partners to support. It may make sense for the American government to involve itself in the region for these reasons, but on an individual level, on a level of human understanding and goodness, whether it derive from a divine source or social obligation, these reasons should all be secondary. What are important are the lives of fellow men, women and children. What is important is the maintenance of a successful society where people live together with respect for each other. What is important is that a child living in Israel be able to grow up with love and not hate in his heart.
This child should grow up with the knowledge that it is wrong to hurt and kill others. That it is wrong to be proud of another’s blood on his hands. That it is wrong to shoot an unarmed civilian with military weapons. That it is wrong to even hold hate in his heart. Yet how close are we to this in Israel and how close are we to that goal here at home?
We bring up conflicting histories of the land, blame each other for the violence, call each other ignorant of the facts and even say to each other, You are unconcerned with peace and justice; you are selfish and want only the land. This we say to each other, sometimes with the intent to hurt, sometimes without any intent at all. We are guilty as any and guiltier than most when we blame others for failures that we ourselves do not try to correct.
It is our responsibility, especially as young able university students, who have little responsibilities but to learn, to build peace in our hearts and to teach others that peace is possible. Israel is a beautiful land with many beautiful peoples, yet it is being torn apart by the very peoples who claim to love it.
There is a story in the Old Testament – a book from which Jews, Muslims and Christians all learn – about King Solomon and a beautiful child. Two women both claimed this child as their own and not knowing what to do, they went to the very wise King Solomon. The King decided to solve the situation with a sword, Divide the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other. One woman agreed, the other did not because she preferred that the child live even if it meant she would lose him. King Solomon thus decided that the woman who wanted the child to live was the real mother because she had a true love for this child.
Who, whether it be Ehud Barak or Yaser Arafat, the Israelis or the Palestinians, is willing to save the life of Israel out of a true love for the land? Both sides are willing to destroy the very country they love because they do not want the other to have it. Is this justice in anyone’s book?
One state, two states, autonomous regions; this should not be the primary issue. Peace in Israel is more than that, much more. It is a sharing of resources, cooperative economic development and most of all, Jewish youth and Arab youth playing soccer with each other in a schoolyard during recess. It starts with a trust. A trust that a Palestinian can safely walk down the street in Tel Aviv and that a Jew can safely walk down the streets of Gaza. It is a trust that Jews can pray at their holy sites and Muslims can do the same. Peace is a two way street and unfortunately the roads are very narrow in the Old City. But the path to trust and understanding must begin in our hearts before it is brought to the negotiating table. Salaam, Shalom and Peace to all.
The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs and economics, is chairman of the International Affairs Society.