All in Philosophical Reflections
If we can’t see the social change we work toward, are our efforts misplaced and do our words fall on deaf ears? We pour our hearts into specific endeavors, exerting great effort toward a cause, and sometimes, we seem to be making great progress! Then we look around us -- when we read the news, when we talk to the ever-present pessimists claiming to be pragmatists, when a new wave of violence begins to bubble to the surface (belying tensions and unsettled issues lurking beneath the “quiet” and “status quo”) -- and our hearts can sink in despair. Did our efforts even make a difference? Can we ever really change anything?
I recently read a portion of a book that made me pause, read it again, and then again. I considered my own response to the questions it raised and their implications.
A woman, beautiful but with the weight of the world seeming to rest on her shoulders, stands alone struggling to grasp what has happened to her-the loss, the violation. What can be done now? Her body still feels the pain of her attack, of this attempt to dominate and destroy because of one selfish man’s desire to wield power. Beyond the physical injuries is a much deeper wound, though; it is an assault on her very identity, an attempt to use the physical fact of femininity to force her into subjugation, without regard to the emotional, mental and physical toll on her.
For the past few months, there have been recurring events in the news where a Palestinian and a soldier come in contact, with the end result nearly always being the death of the Palestinian. Two weeks ago, a video from Hebron was released showing a soldier shooting a subdued Palestinian who lay on the floor. The last week of April, two Palestinians - a pregnant mother of two and her brother - were shot and killed by soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint. Like clockwork, these events are reported by Palestinian and Israeli news channels offering two opposing accounts of what happened.
Strength. It’s something we all value. Weakness is hard for us to tolerate in ourselves and in others.
I think I’ve misheard the young woman sitting across from me as she tells me I’m incredibly strong. This coming from a woman who has been CEO of an organization, founded another project and stood her ground as a conscientious objector in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And she doesn’t really know anything about me.
“When I was a teenager I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means.” -The Righteous Mind
Many times people ask what the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks like. And many are discouraged because of the unlikelihood of a realistic tangible solution. For me, there is no such thing as no solution. It is not within our nature to be hopeless, and when there is a will, there is always a way. It is not impossible to solve our conflict. It is possible when we begin to believe in a solution.
Most people do not fall into a static category of religion, like my friend who asked me if I think ISIS represents Islam. She did not wish to be misrepresented. Islam is not one thing, just as Judaism is not one thing, just as Christianity is not one thing.
Muslims now number over two billion people, and the number is rising. Often we associate Islamic authority and teaching with the Arab world, but most of the world’s Muslims are far from this region. Eighty percent of Muslims are non-Arab, and the most populous Muslim country is Indonesia.
The other day, I went to a friend’s house. It was my first time there and, as an explorer in a new setting, I was gathering information about my friend. One of the things i noticed about her living room is the wide collection of cookbooks she had. So my first question was:
- ‘Do you like to cook?’
- ‘No, these are for my roommate.’ she answered
- ‘Does she like to cook then?’
- ‘No, she collects them. This is what she would like to read, you know? The person she thinks she is as opposed to who she is. One day she wants to read them.’
Peace is ever elusive and safety is becoming increasingly distant for growing numbers of us in Israel/Palestine. Fear is rampant and there are times when its presence is tangible. We’ve become accustomed to the unpredictable. After all, if summer in Gaza 2014 showed us anything it was that we are all vulnerable and even “terrorists” can unpredictably strike at will.