Living in limbo

We wait, an entire nation, suspended in limbo. In the wake of inconclusive elections, we await the results of politicians’ finagling, the back-room deals, the threats, the blame-game, the promises soon to be broken. We cannot deny that the result will matter. Yet, as we tolerate the news updates, the “important” press conferences, the scoops, we are decreasingly interested and collectively disgusted. No party-lines divide our disgust, we are unified in knowing that decency, honesty, and concern for human beings are nowhere to be found at the politicians’ late-night meetings.

Also waiting, in fearful anticipation, are the occupied Palestinians. More than three and a half million people, in Gaza and the West Bank, who did not vote for the Israeli politicians whose choices will impact decisively upon their future. Despite the ballots we Israelis cast last month, we seem united, even with the Palestinians, in our helplessness.

When things seem to be beyond our control, what are our choices? We can accept that we are mere spectators, cheering listlessly for “our” team or booing “theirs.” But we carry on with our lives, trudging to work or school or to the university, or to the unemployment office, seeing what is before our eyes and doing the best we can to better our lot, to care for our families and friends, hoping that at least things will not get worse for us. The economy is more or less stable, there are fewer terrorist actions, the occupation seems not to affect many of us directly. Experts warn that it is only a matter of time before another uprising will erupt, if the status quo remains unchanged in the territories, but we don’t hear the warnings. ¬†We live like the guy who jumped off the Empire State Building. As he falls past the 30th floor he hears someone shout, “How’re you doing?” and answers, “So far, so good.”

An alternative choice is to generate movement, to pursue peace and justice with renewed vigor, to band together with our friends and colleagues, to initiate actions that will make even a small difference to people, and through action, to hearten ourselves and others. We must hold before us the truth that, whenever a possible breakthrough appears at the macro-level, we will need to be ready to receive the baton and run with it. Just as the army trains in order to prepare for what may come, so must the army of peace train the muscles that we will need in the future.

We must learn the human arts that lie beyond persuasion, the crucial compassionate assertiveness that we will need to reach out effectively to those who oppose us. We can exercise those muscles now, there is nothing to wait for. Just glance at a newspaper. There is nothing to wait for.

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.
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