A number of people have emailed me the below YouTube video by Dennis Prager as part of his Prager University project. "Give us five minutes, and we will give you a semester." The video is of course about the Middle East conflict and in five minutes boils down the root of the ongoing dilemma into Arab and Palestinian rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.
Anyone who has read my writings and heard my many sermons on the topic knows that I share this view. But I worry that such well made videos featuring such articulate pundits will not ease tensions but only harden everyone's positions. For weeks now I have been thinking about a recent conversation with a friend, who even though is not Jewish has visited Israel and professed affection for the State. We were discussing the recently intercepted package bomb. I asked, "How are we ever going to stop this from happening?" He retorted that Israel should stop building settlements and make peace with the Palestinians. I was a bit flabbergasted by his response. I of course asked, "What do you mean by settlements? Jerusalem? Do you mean hundreds of thousands of people?" I prepared my facts and figures in my head to continue the debate, but he appeared not to want to argue (and instead enjoy our sons' soccer game) and so he said, "I don't know. But peace between Israel and the Palestinians will really help." And then I realized that for years I have been living in Moskowitz University. And in there I am always right.
I worry that we are caught in an endless feedback loop of self righteousness and indignation. I can spend hours reading articles and watching videos that only reinforce my convictions, beliefs and long held positions. I wonder. Is it possible that even if history and truth are on our side we may not be right? Maybe there is some truth in what my friend said. Maybe withdrawing from some settlements will ease tensions. I very much doubt it. I remain deeply skeptical. I don't trust Palestinian intentions. Israel uprooted its settlements from Gaza but still lacks peace on that Southern border. Then again it vacated settlements from the Sinai and along that border has enjoyed decades of peace and quiet. That peace is certainly not perfect but it has held for these many years. (To those who might want to take up these arguments, please know that I am very much aware of the issues and their many details, but my intention in this post is quite different.) We must recognize that as much as I doubt Palestinian intentions they doubt Israeli intentions. Each of us can scream at the other from our distant mountain tops. Or we can meet. Let there be no preconditions for one party to come to the table and no bribes to cajole the other to the meeting. There are many things that must be debated. Let the Palestinians and Israelis come together and discuss their differences and debate peace agreements and cease fires. I can shout my truth from the mountain top, and now thanks to the internet many people can play it over and over again and sit in front of their computers and nod in agreement, but for the entire world to truly listen and hear we must shout it together. The side to which I belong can produce videos, letters to the editors, briefs, articles and counter stories. They can do the same. In the end convincing me of the truths that I already hold will not advance peace. That can only be furthered by waring parties coming together and negotiating and compromising.
My friend only wants the wars to end. He wants to again be able to travel the world freely. How can I not share that dream?