A friend of mine brought to my attention a recent article by Ethan Bronner in The New York Times, Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach. The article describes a group of Israeli women who engage in civil disobedience by sneaking into Israel groups of Palestinian women to enjoy a day at the beach. The Israeli women, who call themselves We Will Not Obey, are willing to break the law to send the message that in their opinion, the occupation, with its attendent legislation, is unjust and should be brought to an end. The Palestinian women are willing to take the heat from their husbands, friends, and families, to enjoy a day at the beach, and to taste a small measure of freedom.
While the beach scene may seem idyllic on its face, not everything goes smoothly on such occasions. A Palestinian woman, who has five of her brothers in Israeli prisons, and whose other brother was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife, said, “This is all ours,” when she first entered Tel Aviv. The Israeli women reminded her, however, that his was their home. Another Palestinian woman admitted that her husband’s family did not approve of her visits, “How can you be with the Jews, they ask me, are you a collaborator?”
So perhaps the deep seated divide between these two people is still there, only to be temporarily papered over by an occasional act of defiance, an occasional visit to the beach. But something about this story struck me as significant. Perhaps it was the fact that women, and not men, were taking the initiative to defy the law, but in a gentle, and non-violent manner. Women, on the whole, seem to have a keen sense of right and wrong, and are not naturally inclined to obsess over ideological differences. Women have better things to do with their time. They tend to build bridges, not walls.
Our daughter gave birth to her fourth child this week. At a moment’s notice, my wife and she sprang into action, making the necessary arrangements to bring this child into the world, and to care for her as best they could. For the most part, the men sat back, watched, and marveled at it all. Who are women, I often ask myself. They are the givers of life, and the caretakers of life, and as such are uniquely qualified to reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope,
a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.
There are many instances, around the world, of a disconnect between the policies of government and the aspirations of the people. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but their leaders seem disinclined to make the effort. In the Arab world, the man on the street wants a decent job and the personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit. And yet, the powers that be remain committed to a model that is repressive and out of step with the will of the people. In the United States, Republicans and Democrats, who are debating a solution to debt crisis, are willing to play a game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the country, which could wreak economic havoc in the U.S. and around the world.
Leaders, on all sides of the fence, get caught up in ideological traps, traps which imprison their thinking, traps which make it difficult to find common ground, and traps which make compromise a dirty word. At a time when global problems require global solutions, narrow-minded ideological positions keep us cooped up in our own little worlds. And it’s going to take more than a Day at the Beach for us to enjoy the light of day.
One of the Israeli women mentioned Rosa Parks, “…I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.” Yes, but that was not enough. What was needed was a vision, a big vision of hope. Dr. King was a man possessed of such a vision, a vision of civil rights and equal treatment under the law. Ordinarily, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus, would have been a non-event. But Dr. King was no ordinary man. He was a man possessed of a vision, a big vision of hope. He saw in Rosa Parks an opportunity to give substance to his vision, and soon enough, the reality on the ground grew to fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.
So let us enjoy our Day at the Beach. Let us continue to push the envelope, just a tad, and without violence, to get our voices heard. But let us, as well, find the courage and the wisdom to give purpose to our passions. Let us embrace a Vision of Hope
, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom
, and let us give substance to that vision by changing peoples’ lives for the better, with new realities that speak louder than words, and which help to break the walls of ideological divides.
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