It’s Sunday morning, and after a glorious Shabbat in Jerusalem, we are heading for Ramallah to meet our Palestinian “brothers”.
Jerusalem I think worked its magic: we toured the city in bright sunlight on Shabbat and every church, mosque, synagogue, park and vista looked beautiful. Actually, we didn’t see as many synagogues as churches and mosques – the glory of the Jewish people is in faces and hearts.
I was worried that the Indinesian group especially would have a hard time with the “sabra” personality of the Israelis. But actually, Ben Yehuda on Saturday night (in line at Moshikos schwarma and falafel and the kitch stores selling tourist products) was engaging – Moshikos gave everyone free falafel balls and no one pushed ahead in line! Israel is changing? People that I said Shabbat shalom to in the street actually responded Shabbat Shalom, and that got our Muslims and Christians to say Shabbat shalom as well. While walking in the Old City, just outside Zion gate, we were all thirsty and we came upon a table of drinks and cookies – it was actually one of those outdoor Israeli birthday parties. Our group thought they were selling food, and I was so afraid that they would get refused and that it would feel “New Testimenty” where the Christians (take your pick – Jesus or Muhammad) were rejected help by the Jews… Instead, the partyers could not have been nicer, and our group got drinks and cookies and I wished the grandfather birthday boy a happy birthday – we all bonded as happens all the timf in Israel. I felt proud!
We’ve had a lot of sessions with Israeli Arabs/Palestinians, and with liberal, left leaning Israelis. It hasn’t really been “fair and balanced” but our Indonesians are seeing a lot of Palestinians and Israelis (Rabbi Michael Melchior, Muhammad Darwasha, Rabbi Ron Kronish, Hanna Siniora, and many more) who are agreeing and are talking about working together. I think that overall the Indonesians are sweeping a vital democracy – Israel – that is working hard for peace. What they are not getting is why it is so hard to make peace with the Palestinians (Arafat? Fatah? Hamas?) and the Arabs in general.
The Palestinians do continue to talk about the siege of Gaza and issues of dignity. But they have all been recognizing the Jewish state – not just Israel – and even more important: they have all recognized that Jews will be able – and should be able – to live in Palestine, if the West Bank becomes Palestine. This might be just boloney, but I think it’s a change. It means – as I said to the American Ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – that there is no reason for anyone to obsess about Jews building more and larger communities in Judea and Samaria: they are not an obstacle to peace; if there is a Palestinian state these Jews will become citizens of Palestine. Not fun, but not an obstacle to peace.
One of the Israeli Palestinian speakers who advocates for Arabs living in Israel made it clear that Israel was a vibrant democracy – nothing like Saudi Arabia. I certainly disagreed with some of what they said, but they were not spewing lies: there complaints actually could help Israel. For now, it sounds like the Palestinians and Arabs in Israel may be “people we can work with” as Margeret Thatcher said about Gorbachev.
But I’ll report back later today from Ramallah after our meetings with Fayyed and Hanan Ashwari and other Palestians folks.
Leaving the comfort and inspiration of Jerusalem (and the King David) and hoping as always for,
Shalom al Yisrael