240 years ago, the people of the amazing country in which I so proudly live became independent from monarchs who treated them unfairly. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are among the multitude of reasons that I am so fortunate to be a citizen of this great nation. I feel free to say what I want, I feel free to challenge public opinion, I feel free to dispute social and political issues, and I feel free to live the way I want to live. But does that mean I am independent?
During these last few days plagued with so much terror, I found myself contemplating this perplexing idea of independence and my entire perception on what being independent means changed. I was very young the first time I heard Golda Meir’s quote that “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us,” but even then it shook me the wrong way. I always thought that generalizing all the Arabs as hating all of us Jews was crazy. There is no way. People are independent, free to make their own decisions, I thought, but perhaps that is not the whole truth.
This week, the true meaning of that quote sunk in. When the mother of the 17-year-old brainwashed terrorist can understand the mother of the 13-year-old murder victim, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, peace will be conceivable. I believe in open dialogue, I believe in understanding, and I believe in the values of liberty: all ideals the Palestinian leadership has taught its citizens to reject, and ones present in an independent and free society. If one side says her 17-year-old son died a martyr defending Jerusalem because he stabbed a 13-year-old girl to death in cold blood, I am scared of the world I live in, and I am most definitely not independent of it.
The Palestinian teenagers who carry out violent murders for the sake of peace are not independent. The 18-year-old Israeli kids who join the IDF to bravely defend their homeland are not independent either. The Israeli Jew who kills on a pretense of baseless hatred is not independent and neither is the little girl in the West Bank who had violence incited upon her, but speaks out against it. And I, a Zionist, American-Argentinean Jew, am not independent. Self-compelled or not, society motivates all of us to act a certain way, often without concern for others.
Unlike the founding fathers, we are not in a battle for independence against an unfair monarchy, rather in an ideological struggle for independence against misunderstanding and a completely warped ideology. I do not agree that the ultimate solution to peace is Arabs loving their children more. Only when everyone can feel a sense of dignity in who they are, when our choices are made with consideration for what is good for humankind and not what is imposed on us by uncontrolled geographical and cultural factors, when blame is put where blame is warranted, and, most importantly, when a sense of universal compassion and understanding develops will there be peace. And so, I think peace will come when independence comes.