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by Deb Reich
When there does not appear to be much reason for hope, that does not mean that there is, in fact, no hope.
People look around here in Palestine/Israel, at the ground zero of so-called “intractable conflicts,” and wonder how we can ever climb out of the mess we have made of things here, even if everyone were to join together and really try.
The despair people feel is real, and quite understandable, and even warranted. But there really is good reason to remain hopeful.
If you look back in history, you can find lots of seemingly unsalvageable situations that were repaired in the end, not because the core problem was resolved, but because we evolved past it. Events, life, reality, or the spirit of the times simply moved past the problem, like a stream flowing around a very large rock. Downstream from what had been the problem, life became livable again.
Consider, for example, the emergence of modern Western science and the struggle for ascendancy between it and the established European religious authorities of a few centuries ago. Galileo was brought up on charges by the Church hierarchy for insisting that the earth revolved around the sun instead of vice versa. If you were a budding scientist back then, you were flirting with a very dangerous vocation. It was heretical for anyone to hold opinions, on whatever evidence, that ran counter to established religious doctrine. At some point this “intractable problem” about astronomy simply disappeared, when the proof became overwhelming with regard to what revolved around what. Few people today would insist that the earth is flat or that the sun revolves around the earth.
When the very idea of “enemies” is finally understood to be obsolete, the madness in Palestine/Israel and other such conflict hot spots will be seen as the last gasp of an unjust and sadistic exercise in bad governance. In this exercise, old-school leaders with outdated mental maps are cheered on by extremists and the super-rich to delude the masses of clueless citizens who have detached from the painful reality all around them, while suppressing the disenfranchised and downtrodden who cannot detach and who continue struggling to try to make change.
Spending time with Palestinian Arab friends and colleagues as well as with Israeli Jewish friends and colleagues has persuaded me of one thing: There is a huge reservoir of constructive energy here, waiting to be utilized. If you just took all the energy that is now actively used in negative, destructive, and violent ways here, and redirected it to constructive projects and tasks, that would be great. But there is a lot more energy sitting on the sidelines – especially on the Palestinian side, where it has been accumulating through sixty years of dispossession and dispersion and forty years of military occupation. As I write this, today, Palestinians under occupation are still not being permitted to fulfill even a fraction of their potential and make their rightful contribution to the human community, but instead are warehoused and neutralized.
Once we opt for deep change and flow with the stream past that rock, manifold possibilities will open up for us, in Palestine/Israel as in many other places. There is enough untapped positive human potential here to power the planet for another millennium.
Deb Reich is an American-Israeli Jew who lived for several years in Muslim Arab Palestinian communities in Israel. She trained in cross-cultural mediation and group facilitation at Wahat al Salam-Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace), the shared Jewish/Arab village near Latrun founded in the 1970s. Deb has freelanced widely for civil society organizations in Israel, and was a staff translator with Haaretz-International Herald Tribune. When her book No More Enemies was published (2011), Deb was living in Jerusalem/Al Quds.