bram-1The Hague, The Netherlands

When the going gets tough, what happens? Celebrations follow calamities. Here is to life, L’Chaim; Yo’iz, to cherish – to appreciate, to value, to respect – life! People are also good.

After the hurricane here in Florida, neighbors came out to help. Some we have never met before. Everyone pitched in and helped out. Mathew brought us together.

Once I bemoaned to Mrs. Rita Kok, wife of our former Minister President, Wim Kok, what’s wrong with the Dutch? Why is it that so many of us can’t walk through the same door? We don’t talk to each other when we could be bridging our differences.

“Bram (my nick name)”, she says, “you forget our history. It’s true we Dutch are thick skulled. We’re stubborn. We stay away and don’t talk when we’re upset with the other. But, when the levy is about to break we all come out of the woodwork to work together and help each other to defeat the strong currents of the sea. And after the conquest, we all go to the pub. We drink. We dance. We hug each other. We shake hands. We start anew.” Life is good.

Recently, yet another study has rattled the Israelis and the Palestinians. Will it further ensnare and incite the people of Israel/Palestine into another vicious cycle at best; a dead end, at worst? As reported by Ms. Naomi Zeveloff in Forward Magazine ‘new’ analysis of data from the Pew Research Center’s study in March 2016, arguably ‘upholds’ that nearly half of all Israeli Jews wants Arabs expelled from their midst. No one has bothered to ask: ‘where to?’

So, what if the question is rephrased to reach the soul of every Jew: “Would you want to load up all of Israel’s Arab citizens and every single Palestinian in the Region on flatbed trucks and haul them away, with barely clothes on their backs, blistering under the burning desert sun, to perhaps an Israeli secret processing plant, to be gassed until death; and, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) grabbing the loot to be divided among all the winners of war?” What a painful memory of horror that only victims can feel and share, sufferers on all sides. Whether appropriate or not, I mentioned this to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Transporting all Palestinians from the Region to nowhere is wishful thinking. It is as mindless and absurd, if not accusatory and inflammatory, as the fear that Palestinians – helpless and defenseless – will throw the Israelis into the sea or worse, expel the Israelis back to their countries of origin. The Israelis’ wish to further displace Palestinians is as cruel – indecent and inhuman – as Dr. Goebbels’ assertion “compassion is misplaced”, in a speech delivered on November 16, 1941: “World Jewry is now gradually engulfed by the same extermination process they had in mind for us and that they would have no scruples to let it happen to us if they had the power to do so.

Zion – Heaven on Earth …

Each day, after each meal, my father age 93 still prays for Israel. He perceives Israel as the Zion – the heaven on earth – articulated in the Sacred Texts. He cannot fathom that Israel is anything but the Zion of his dreams, notwithstanding the reality of a Region scarred by human dilemmas. As I have stated to President Obama and others, “Despite Israel’s lethal arsenal, it goes against Israel’s collective conscience to sentence the Palestinians to a Final Solution. There is good in the Israeli character. For many, certainly for my late mother, the concentration camp has also been a breeding ground for compassion and tolerance. ‘We were more human in camp … we cared for each other … our lives were falling apart yet we fell into each other during moments of greatest suffering… we couldn’t hate all our enemies … ‘“ So, another Holocaust, especially on communal soil, is out of the question.

Must a shared calamity burst through to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together?

Building the Bridge Foundation, The Hague