Empathy for Gazelles

I have always wondered how it is possible that the Jewish people, including the Israelis, can allow another people to endure what we no longer have to.

How strange that just at the 1948 moment when we Jews brought to an end 2,000 years of homelessness, we created homelessness for 700,000 people. We are not to blame, but we are responsible.

Now the Palestinians are burning our fields and nature reserves, scorching the Israelis’ land around Gaza. Hundreds of fires, the news reported tonight that the gazelles had succeeded in escaping one nature reserve fire. We feel for the gazelles, we are relieved they’re safe.

What do we feel for the people who are burning our fields, and their families in Shuja’iyya neighborhood who are waiting for their three hours of electricity to begin? The ragged remains of bombed-out buildings from the 2014 war, children in the street schlepping carts with jerry cans of water for their families, water 90% of which is unfit for human consumption.

Under the Oslo “people to people” program, I was sent by the foreign ministry to conduct managerial training workshops for mid-level managers of the Palestinian Authority in a hotel on the beach in Gaza City. My hosts walked me around downtown at dusk. At the opening of the workshop, I clarified that though I sounded like an American, I am an Israeli, and served in the IDF. One heavy-set guy in the back said, “I don’t care if you’re my enemy, if you have something to teach me.” The workshop went well. At the end, the guy approached and grabbed my hand, said, “Well, you’re not my enemy, and I learned a lot.”

They are just people down there in Gaza. They have kids they worry about, they mourn just as we do when one of their dear ones dies. We Israelis are strong, resourceful people, and we remember we were once slaves in Egypt. Let’s put our strength to work in the service of compassion. We will not be free until the Palestinians are as well.

Yoav Peck is Director of the Sulha Peace Project, bringing Palestinians and Israelis together for people-to-people contact

About the Author
Yoav Peck, a Jerusalem organizational psychologist, is director of the Sulha Peace Project. Born and raised in New York/New Jersey, he holds a BA from Berkeley, and an MA in organizational psychology. He made aliyah in 1973, and was a member of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi for 15 years, and has been living in Jerusalem since '88. He has three kids, and three grandchildren.