For my 67th birthday in June, I asked for a Peace Pole, to publicly proclaim my advocacy for Israeli and Palestinian Peace. It has the following inscription on it: “May Peace Prevail on Earth”, in English, Hebrew and Arabic. Our family had a small dedication ceremony in our garden where my husband erected the Pole. We read peace poems and expressed our hopes. To date, more than 200,000 Peace Poles have been dedicated in over 180 countries around the world. Some of my friends look at me as though I have lost my mind, thinking that peace is possible between the Israelis and Palestinians. “Face reality, Dorit, conflict and hate are a constant and will continue to be so”, they exclaim.
Yes, the reality on the ground is grim. One day a Palestinian boy is shot by Israeli soldiers by mistake; another day a Jewish Israeli girl is killed in her bed by a Palestinian terrorist. However, as unlikely as it sounds, my visit to the West Bank gave me hope. I was so scared to go, yet something big happened to me there. My inner reality changed. The truth that the majority of Palestinians are more like us, hit me deeply. They love their families, educate their children and love the land just like we do.
I admire the thousands of peace builders from both sides, a few of whom I met, who go on year after year doing their peace work. Sometimes I wish that adults could go to peace camps like some of the Israeli and Palestinian children do. I really believe that if the Israelis were to see the West Bank that I saw, the occupation would come to an end.
I keep writing because I don’t know what else to do with my frustration over the current status quo and to further peace. I don’t want to lose hope in mankind like my father did because of the holocaust. I don’t want to remain hopeless about peace for years and blame the Palestinians. My visit to the West Bank inspired hope because I saw the Palestinians as humans like us.
Recently, a young Israeli friend posted on Facebook a video made by Hammas, showing young Palestinian kids ‘play acting’ killing Israelis. I mentioned to my friend that I have photos of settlers showing their 6, 8-year-old children how to handle machine guns. To me, both sides in this instance promote hate. My friend dismissed the photos, convinced that the Israelis’ motives are ‘good’ and the Palestinians’ are bad. It is so sad that each side puts the blame and responsibility on the other. “If only Palestinian mothers would not raise terrorists we could have a chance at peace”, claim the Israelis. “If only the Israelis would stop abusing us at the crossings with their guns, our children would not grow up to hate the Israelis”, claim the Palestinians.
The comedian, Henry Rollins, recently performed in Tel Aviv. At the end of his act he asked Israelis to think about what they can do to ensure a world without war for their children. Having both Israeli and Palestinian friends in my life, I see how each of us forms our own reality. I especially understand the Israeli one. I am starting to notice how narrow and biased our pictures of each other are and how they have been promoted in our societies since childhood. Israelis don’t know Palestinians. I read somewhere that” we have got to take the business of peace more seriously than the business of war.” Elie Wiesel lived through hell without ever hating. At an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2000, he of all people stated: “I wish I had done more for the Palestinian refugees.” One of my heroes, congressman John Lewis stated: “If you are not hopeful, then you just give up. You have to take that long hard look and believe that if you are consistent, you will succeed.”
So instead of listening to all who say “it will never end, get used to it”, I visualize all the peace builders on the ground working tirelessly for decades, who will not stop until peace is achieved. I look at the photo of Mimi in front of me, my aunt who was one of three family members who did not survive the holocaust and tell myself I need to dream big and do whatever I can to reduce suffering.