When I stepped off the plane last December at Ben Gurion Airport I had an overwhelming sense of finally being home. The closest experience I’ve ever had to it was my born again moment when, caught on the wire around the Darlington Reactor site I felt enfolded by the divine presence in a way I’m rarely come close to experiencing again and then only in the rare moments when celebrating the Eucharist I find myself transcending the moment into something wonderful and eternal. Having this experience about a place and particularly within a nation I’ve been very critical of over the years still astounds me. And it puts me in a different space than the political world I’ve been a part of for generations. I still oppose the West Bank settlements; I mourn for and grieve over the deaths and injuries and trauma of Gaza today; I think that a two state solution arrived at sooner rather than later is the best option at this time for long term peace. But I would feel emotionally and spiritually devastated if Israel ceased to be, which is what Hamas and Hezbollah and other similar movements are aspiring to achieve.
This perspective means I’d not be welcome at the People’s Climate March in New York this fall. My belief that peaceful coexistence is more important in the short and long term for the people of Israel/Palestine makes me realise I’d be unwelcome at public expression of opposition to the attacks on Gaza as such gathering are all too often not a demand for peace in Gaza but a gathering to support the regime in Gaza. Peace and an end to violence I’ll always support. Taking sides in a violent dispute is, to me, moving away from advocating an end to war. In the past I’ve marched to end the Vietnam War, in opposition to the Somoza regime, against the coup in Chile, against apartheid, against police violence and the list goes on. It took years for me to get to the point where I saw contradictions in what I was after—a peaceful and more just world—while justifying my participating in such efforts as showing support for the objectives and not the means by which the objectives were obtained. I somehow didn’t make the contraction between teaching in non-violence workshops that means and ends could not be separated and taking part in political campaigns where I could separate the two. I do not believe that I can work for peace between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine if I can not call for an immediate end to violence by both sides. But if I am expected to take a side, it would be the side in which my ideals have a better chance of flourishing. They can in Israel. They can not under Hamas.
I’m hoping to hear back this coming week about my exact placement for my month-long volunteer trip to Israel this fall. Assuming it goes well I plan to return the following summer to study Hebrew and do additional volunteer work. My hope is to be involved with human rights or direct service work. There are homeless people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; there are refugees struggling to find a voice; there are hungry people wondering where their next meal is coming from; there are people from religious minorities seeking a way to live in harmony and dignity with their neighbours. There is a fledgling credit union movement. There are cat rescue efforts. There is multi-faith dialogue. There is bridge building between conflicting worlds. There is hope and despair. These seems, surprisingly enough, the possibility that there is a place for me in all that.
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