Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dear Wendy,
First I want to thank you for taking the time to read my words and for writing to me. I am not sure that this is the way one conducts a conversation on a blog--but it is how I will do it.
I`will take your last point first--this is not the time for anyone to think the "middle" is a place of wisdom when people are dying and the groundwork is being layed for more tragic histories. I did take a closer look when I was in Israel, into the eyes of the people, both those who saw Israel as their always dreamed of homeland and the those who see Israel as the symbol of their dispossession from both their past and their future, into the eyes of the Israeli peace activists and the Israeli border police, into the eyes of Sol, the neighborhood optician who welcomed us to Haifa by saying, "we are not like the rest of Israel, here Jew, Arabs, Christians all live together" and into the eyes of a teenage daugther of settlers hitchhiking with us to get back to her family--the messiah has given us this land, she said. I looked into the eyes of a feminist, single mother in Haifa whose home had been destroyed by a rocket from Lebanon in the war. Every day I walked by a Hebrew sign at a bus stop listing the 18 young people who had been killed in a suicide bombing several years ago. Wendy, you can't take a "step back" and look more closely--to look closely means to focus in, to cross borders, to come against walls.
I am not biased, I would say, I am just getting more and more educated. I read "Once Upon a Country" by Sari Nusseibeh, I read "The Question of Zion" by Jacqueline Rose, I watch through the marvels of this little laptop screen the 1952 film, "Sands of Sorrow," depicting the sorrows of the 700,000 Palestinians who were displaced in the 1948 war--living in a tent city in the Sinai desert--the images are grainy but you can hear the children crying and the pleading of the refugees for the world to help them--Dorothy Day, the narrator, saying so many years ago, all this hopelessness, this abandonment, will harden over the years into fury. And so it has.
I am learning the questions I did not ask--and now at 67 I am peering into my own ignorance--where did all the Palestinians go as the new world order of Israel came into being in 1948--you ask about the suicide bombings, the rockets--I say a nation that imprisons hundreds of thousands of people as a political or security solution--and Gaza is a prison now--a nation that uses religious fanatics, mostly from America, to walk in market places with machine guns hanging from their shoulders, a nation that takes pleasure in the daily suffering of another people--I have seen the check points--there is little civility there--I have heard the stories of Jewish Israelis who spend days trying to get ill Palestinian children past checkpoints os they can get the medical care they so desperately need--no, I do not think I am biased--when I hear an elderly Palestinian living in a refugee camp in Lebanon that is being used for bombing practice both by all sides, say, in a desperate quandry, "why does every one want us dead--are we a human virus?" I hear the voice of my people, Jews who were also seen as a disease--the challenge to all of us and particularly American Jews because our government is pouring more and more military killing power into Israel--is to find a way that begins to cut into the years of pain hardened into suicide bombings--if I may so, a Jewish way that uses all we have learned about political and social violence against the person--there can never be safety in the brutalization of whole populations--not unless you really believe that a Jewish live is worth more then anyone else's. Social justice cannot come from massive social inequities--the means Wendy, the means, threats to withhold water or food or electricity from a whole population cannot lead to any other end then a disgraced nation-state. I think of the monks of Burma, almost naked, walking against military ugliness--no step back--but always questioning, seeing ,reading, talking, thinking, imagining, demanding.