In a few short hours, I will launch my kayak by Rosh Hanikra for a week-long journey down the coast in the Mediterranean dedicated to peace and shared society. Along the way I will be speaking to a range of Israelis about their hopes and fears, and considering, together with them, how we can manage to move our country in a better direction.
What are you doing? What is the connection between sea kayaking and peace? How is building a shared, democratic society inside of Israel connected to a kayaking journey in the Mediterranean?
I have to say that it is not really. Or, it is not inherently, which is not quite the same thing. Peace is peace. And shared society is shared society. They are important subjects of human concern. Kayaking is not. It is fun—one of its great attractions for me—but it is hardly essential.
What kayaking does do for me—and this is where it connects to things I find of considerable importance—is to challenge me regarding how I cope with committing to action, how I deal with fears and take initiative, how I stretch myself, and how I manage difficult situations. Kayaking connects with all elements required to maintain an even keel while trying to get from point A to point B and while facing uncertainty and multiple natural forces that are clearly beyond my control.
When I kayak, I have to deal with the wind and the waves that each affect my ability to get to where I want to go—to achieve something. And I have to do this in a context where the power of an individual is seemingly meaningless when placed against that of the sea. The sea always, ultimately, wins—and our little lives are rounded with a sleep.
But yet we must maintain our confidence in our abilities, through our creativity and actions, to improve our lives and societies together.
In the context of Israel: the essence of Zionism is the stubborn refusal to sit quietly on the sidelines of history, but rather to step up onto the stage as actors able to forge a new drama and to contribute in a positive manner to what we hope will be a wondrous and constantly improving Jewish and, more broadly, human story.
A key to doing this is hope—the hope that we, together, can build a better future. Sadly, we are both weary and wary. These are feelings honestly come by through more recent and distant history alike. But we must speak about hope and build from this.
In the inspirational words of Cornel West (and must I note that quoting West doesn’t imply an endorsement of all of his views?):
To talk about human hope is to engage in an audacious attempt to galvanize and energize, to inspire and to invigorate world weary people. Because that is what we are. We are world-weary; we are tired. For some of us there are misanthropic skeletons hanging in our closet. And by misanthropic I mean the notion that we have given up on the capacity of human beings to do anything right. The capacity of human communities to solve any problem.
We must face that skeleton as a challenge, not a conclusion.
My kayaking journey is part of my own effort to face that challenge. I’ll be kayaking from the north to the south of Israel to speak with Israelis throughout the country and to meet with various inspirational individuals who are already contributing through incredible organizations and initiatives to improving our future. It is my hope that this will help to inspire me and others to step up to the challenges we face.
I am calling this initiative Yuvalim. Yuvalim aims to inspire and leverage individual Israelis to recognize their latent power and to dare, in solidarity with a broad network of others, to change the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yuvalim means “tributaries” in Hebrew—tributaries which flow to rivers, which then flow down to the sea. Yuvalim aims to draw attention to the power of every individual, working together with others, to direct the flow of history, building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians and a democratic, shared society for Jews and Arabs inside of Israel.
The Yuvalim initiative aims, as well, to weave networks together with other communal networks in the US and Europe—including faith-based—supportive of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and in a vision of a shared society within Israel.
Come join me.
You can follow the journey on the Yuvalim Facebook page.