Lessons learned from The Holy Land

Today’s post comes from Rob E…
On Saturday we met with Dr. Husam Zomlot, the Executive Deputy Commissioner, FATAH Commission for International Relations at his office in Ramallah in the West Bank. Husam is a charismatic, articulate, and a passionate spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. He is a forceful and convincing advocate for the two state solution and he cited story and story of injustice heaped upon his people by the “occupiers”. He didn’t give an inch, which is not exactly true: he doesn’t support violence by his own people perpetrated against innocents).
On Sunday we met with a Rabbi from Gush Etzion, a settlement village near Bethlehem. The Rabbi was every bit as passionate a spokesperson for the right wing settlement movement, though he repeatedly insisted he spoke only for himself. Bottomline: the Rabbi thinks the two state solution is unrealistic and he believes the entire land of Israel,including the West Bank, belongs to the Jews. He also didn’t give an inch, though that’s not exactly true either: he would consider reparations to Palestinians if it led to a lasting peace.
We learned (or relearned) these truths from Husam and the Rabbi:
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is crazy-complex, much beyond any complexity we had known of previously to coming to Israel. Now we know we know that truth in spades.
  • The parties, as represented by Husam and the Rabbi, are totally dug in on their respective positions, almost blinded by their own passions, and are equally convinced that the other side shoulders all of the blame. Listening to them was disheartening and peace would seem a very long ways off.

On Sunday late afternoon we met with Rami Elhanan and Baasam Aramin of The Parents Circle, an organization comprising 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have suffered the loss of family members to the conflict. Rami and Baasam were a breath of fresh air. They each shared with us their pain and stories of loss and tragedy. They had both moved on from hate and recrimination, however. Each man had done major and impressive work in healing his deeply wounded heart and even forgiven the other side. Improbable though it would seem from their stories, they seemed genuinely to love one another.

Here’s what we learned from Baasam and Rami:

  • There is hope.
  • The conflict is not as complex, after doing the incredibly hard work of learning to forgive and love.
  • The international community must neither abandon nor judge either side to the conflict. We must put pressure on both sides to embrace peace.