THE BATTLE OF JERICHO, REVISITED
50 million shekels is the price of our capitulation to the 40 families at Amona. 50 million. What might we have done with that money? In our schools with 40 kids in many classrooms. In East Jerusalem where they need money for 1000 classrooms they don’t have. In hospitals, where increased staffing would mean that nurses would have the time to discuss patients with doctors who would have the time. The most treacherous roads would be upgraded. The streets of Jerusalem might not be so dirty.
As even our leftist hearts are touched by the endless radio interviews with the threatened settlers of Amona, we have developed a national amnesia, allowing ourselves to forget that the settlers chose to live in a place they knew was contested, unresolved. With their eyes wide open, the young grandparents of a third generation of settlers gambled on an uncertain future when they moved into their caravans and built their homes. And now, how are they feeling? Are they losing any sleep about the cuts in welfare, education, health that will fund their relocation? Or do they just reflect an ethos of fuck you, Jack, it worked out for me… an ethos gathering force here, after 50 years of occupation, re-defining what it is to be an Israeli.
Sophisticated thugs and sex offenders are at home among those who wield power in Israel. They are rich, they make and break the rules, and they are admired and envied throughout the country. Virtually unopposed. 48% of the public thinks leftists are disloyal, according to the Israel Democracy Institutes recent poll. Why are there no leftists among the perpetrators of incidents reported each week, like mushrooms after the rain, of corruption and sexual abuse?
The Israelis coming to Sulha’s event near Jericho on Thursday are among the traitors reviled by many of our fellow countrymen. The Palestinians who join us will be curious to encounter Israelis who seek contact with them, who wish them no harm. An evening after the longest night of the year, as we gather to consciously confront the darkness surrounding us, we will humanize each other by sitting in small circles and listening. Looking into each other’s eyes and working to embrace the contradictions we see, the tension we feel. Palestinians will speak with Israelis who have served in the army, imparting their experience under occupation. Israelis, carrying the shame of the conqueror, will reach out to those people seen as the enemy by our families and friends. We’ll summon the chutzpah to ask of young men, from refugee camps and West Bank villages, that they hear our story as well.
This time, in the listening circles, we will explore issues of personal and collective vulnerability. We’ll pray too, we’ll thank the cook and the people who grew the vegetables we’ll eat. Over supper, there will be quiet conversation, and laughter. Later, beneath the desert sky, we’ll light the Tribal Fire, and we’ll warm ourselves together, singing and perhaps dancing. How powerful will be our softness!
In 1967, Vietnam protestors placed flowers in the barrels of the guns of National Guardsmen protecting the Pentagon. As we leave the Sulha event, we’ll be armed with flowers for the guns of hatred that will surround us again, back in our daily routines. Palestinians and Israelis will be assailed by cynical friends. But the glow of the Tribal Fire will glow in our bellies. Thursday’s achievement will be measured in the hope and perseverance we’ve re-ignited in the hearts of those who were with us. The little community we re-created outside Jericho will strengthen us as we carry on. In the words of the slaves’ spiritual…”and the walls came tumbling down….”