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August 4, 2013

The heart of the seven-month deadly-heat dry season in Israel. The earth is parched, the trees in a survival mode, weeds and thistles rule the land. Even Israelis who have no patience for trivia are talking about the heat. Thank God for putting Jerusalem on the edge of the desert. It’s dry here, and the cool evenings are a blessing.

 In late October/early November the first rains will herald the flourishing season in Israel, and over there in Palestine. The hills around Nablus and the upper Galilee will spring into life as the rains bring a reluctant, shy awakening to imminent fertility.

Will we be ready for the spring? Will we gaze, spectators on the sidelines, as events sweep forward? Will we engage in that oh-so-important time-filler here, political prophesizing, hoping at best to have been right, however things turn out? Or will glorious March find us worthy of the havoc of wildflowers in the hills around Latrun? Will we create willingness among folks to take the risks of going with peace? Will we reach out with empathy to our fellow countrymen and offer our support as they confront the peace’s implications? As agreements are signed, the settlers, forced by the will of the majority to leave their homes in the West Bank, knowing how mishandled were the evacuees of Gush Katif – will they allow us to assist them – leftists offering to share their homes with evacuated settlers, as did thousands of Israelis when evacuees from the North ran from the 2nd Lebanon War? Will we rise to the occasion? Will we fight polarization and demonization of the other, to bring common decency back to our land?

Our adversaries are formidable. Naftali Bennet, darling of the blindest, most extreme sectors among our people, attended the brith mila of my son, which took place in his parents’ living room. My ex-wife and his folks went to school together in San Francisco. Naftali was a smart, cute little guy with sandy hair and a great smile. As a one-year old, he was not a chauvinistic, cynical politician. What happens to people?

And no less important, what’s happened to us, the general Israeli populace, 46 years into occupation? What dark mark has this endless occupation left on the soul of my people?

Like the neurotic who fears freedom more than he fears ongoing suffering, we have all undermined our own best efforts. Now, finally, at this unique juncture, comes the call to frame all our mistakes and past suffering, in retrospect, as the price we paid before learning the inescapable lessons, such as:

  • The Israeli occupation of future Palestine is detrimental to the lives of all the area’s residents. The jailer suffers, not only the prisoner.
  • The Palestinians will never give up their quest for an independent homeland, just as the Vietnamese never gave up. Palestine will rise.
  • Without peace, the international community will become increasingly hostile to Israel and there will ultimately be an enormous economic and human price to pay.
  • Israelis crave normality, as do Palestinians and Arab citizens across the middle- east. Just to get on with living life.

 More and more of us now know what we must know, in order to move forward. So what do we do with the lessons learned? Which direction to take?  Which to avoid? Why do I not care to read the latest account of the Palestinians’ UN campaign? Because Monday-morning quarterbacking is no longer appropriate. We already understand where the front is, the front that’s relevant to us non-diplomats.  For us, this struggle will not be won in the UN. This will be won in the streets.

In the streets is where the Israeli oppositionists will fight, well-organized, seemingly united, to obstruct the inevitable. And in the streets, we who know where peace is waiting and what must be done to get there, we will be talking with Israelis, to support them/us in embracing the transformation of paradigm, from win-lose to win-win. We will talk with waverers, we will talk with settlers, we will talk with anyone who will talk with us. Parlor meetings and street-corner discussions and Hyde Parks will flourish, as our people grapple with change. And also in the streets, hundreds of thousands will again march for peace, more determined than ever to achieve it,  demonstrating our passion and togetherness, as we bring Israel home to itself.



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