One of the biggest problems is that both the Israeli and the Palestinian side have their own compelling and internally consistent narrative that has almost nothing to do with the other side's. We could see these narratives as we traveled, and their lack of congruence was discussed by both Israeli and Palestinian speakers with some self-awareness. Add to that the Christian experience as a religious minority among the Palestinian minority, as well as the disproportionate influence of the United States government and private US funders, and the whole situation is quite tricky. For the sake of explanation, below is a brief summary of both narratives, probably way over-simplified.
|Rabin, Arafat and Clinton at the signing of Oslo Accords|
|Temple Mount with Al Aqsa Mosque (Jane photo)|
|Graffiti on Security Wall on Jericho Road (Jane Photo)|
Currently, no one seems to hold much hope for a political solution in the near term. All sides are doing a lot of political posturing, without providing much concrete opening for negotiations. Ideology abounds, with very little practicality. Additionally, since the peace process stalled in 2000, person-to-person interactions between Palestinians and Jews have diminished significantly. Some of this is ideological -- if we are in a state of war, why consort with the enemy. But some of it is practical -- given security measures, Palestinians' movement into Israel proper is restricted and Israelis have little reason to go into Palestinian regions. While young people seem less ideologically hidebound then older generations, the opportunities for cosmopolitan mixing are scarce.
Miracles remain possible, however. On the last Friday of Ramadan this year, the Israeli government opened all checkpoints into Jerusalem. Many people were able to come and pray in the Holy City for the first time in their lives, and the day went off without incident. Some commentators felt that if this could happen for one day, maybe it could happen for good. Maybe it can. While peace is hard and always tenuous, there have been times in Jerusalem's history when people of different faiths and ethnic groups have lived together more or less peacefully. To get from here to there, three things seem to be necessary. The first is people on both sides will have to be more interested in a just and peaceful society than in defending their ideologies, ignoring their own harmful deeds, or avenging past harms. Second, contact between average Israelis and average Palestinians needs to increase. All sides need to learn about each other's religious beliefs, history, fears and aspirations. Finally, God needs to give all his children, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise, the healing, the courage and the love needed to make peace possible. We can all help with God's important work by doing what Psalm 122 commends us to: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper who love you." If enough of us pray for peace to the God of Abraham, maybe all those who love Jerusalem of every race, tribe, people, and language will truly be able to prosper together.
|From West Bank Story|