image of jerusalem 2013

Separate Walks, Separate Talks!
Your hate is boiling up inside, it has no place to run and hide...

11 October   |   2000   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

... Your heart is breaking clean in two, there is nothing anyone can do. Your soul becomes a lake on fire, to hurt someone is your desire. You want someone to feel the pain, that is almost driving you insane.

Then you look up so silently, into the eyes of your enemy. And instead of ugly, menacing glares, you see your pain reflected there.”

These are the poetic words that were written by Martine, a young girl from Massachusetts. I read her reflections today in a book entitled ‘A Million Visions of Peace’. And her words had such a wondrous effect on me! Here is an eleven-year old who actually grasps the meaning of life better than many grown up men and women of this world.

I suppose what also enhanced my sense of wonderment is that it came only a couple of days after I had published an article entitled ‘Walking Together into the Unknown’ in which I had expressed deep concern about the situation in Israel and Palestine in the midst of an ever-escalating conflict. And understandably enough, my ‘risible’ attempts at being objective let alone faith-driven in my analysis led to a whole host of critical comments and ‘helpful suggestions’ by a number of people. Indeed, some readers thought that I had no right to ‘betray’ the Palestinian cause at this critical juncture by criticising some of its misdeeds. Conversely, other readers thought that I had shown undue bias toward the Palestinian cause and that I had thereby forfeited any claim toward academic objectivity.

Later, I found myself thinking about those intense reactions! True, my article was largely in favour of the Palestinian quest for self-determination within secure and well-defined boundaries. After all, I do believe that their cause is just. However, I had also tackled at some length the Jewish fears, their feelings of siege, as well as the need for a peace that reflects their values and security. Yet, all the arguments I had come up and all the analogies I had put together were literally lost in the wind the minute it became clear that I was not siding staunchly with one or the other party!

Over the past near-four years that I have been back in Jerusalem, the two saddest discoveries I have made about the people of this land is that they hear only what they wish to hear, see only what they wish to see and believe only what they wish to believe. As Martine wrote, there is such an incredible amount of rigid fear and deep-seated repulsion in peoples’ attitudes toward each other that they simply fail to see their own pain reflected in the eyes of their enemy. People hold on to their certainties, perceptions, stereotypes and recriminations with such ferocity and conviction that it is well nigh impossible to alter or adjust them. Theirs is an irrevocable creed! Theirs is the absolute truth! To paraphrase the Belgian psychologist Jean-Louis Beignard, I believe that the traumas that have beset both Palestinians and Israelis make them mirror images of one another, and therefore render them incompatible and irreconcilable.

Is there a solution? The solution today is to find those quality men and women who are willing to swim against the tide, accepting to be reviled and willing to sacrifice in the process their lives and livelihoods for peace. Indeed, is it possible to find in our own region the visionary likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, John Hume or Vaclav Havel - to mention only four contemporary charismatic leaders - who changed their ideas, overcame their frustrations, forsook hatred, forgave their enemies and showed an abundant measure of good will and good faith?

I would like to conclude with another quotation from the same book ‘A Million Visions of Peace’. This time round, let me introduce the readers to Carrie, a ten-year young girl from Illinois. She writes, “Peace is accepting one another for what we are. Peace is learning. It also is listening to what people have to say with an open mind’.

Funnily enough, I know of such a humble and self-effacing man. But he lived so many moons ago ..!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2000   |   11 October


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