Maybe because the country’s founders had lost so much during the Holocaust, they chose to fight so hard for their new country, build by them from zilch. Over time and endless conflicts, wars and over numerous generations, they succeeded establishing a nation of a booming economy, impressive technologies, research, innovation, culture, prosperity, military potency, freedom of speech and, some say, a true democracy, most of anything and everything any country could hope for. All this except of course for the precious peace, stability and safe future for its current as well as the future generations.
Unquestionably controversial for its relationship with its neighbors, for numerous other economic reasons, and for its so compelling history and stamina, this petite state has become an envy of so many others. Within it exist the symbols our humanity has been successful in achieving throughout its entire existence.
This not simply due to all of the relatively recent achievements since its birth in 1948, but also for all it represents, for cultivation and preservation of all that signifies our past, our heritage, beliefs, traditions, cultures, arts, hopes and desires, our persistence to overcome and win, truly, at any cost.
Whether looking up at its glorious expressions, or down to what hides below the holy grounds, one’s breath is taken away with amazement, respect, recognition and pride in being a part of the humanity.
However, and this is a truly personal reflection of mine, in this pursuit of a dream an important essence has been lost, or sacrificed? These survivors of prosecutions and oppressions have themselves, with each new generation, undergone a gradual transformation, becoming, even if only seemingly, less sensitive, respectful and tolerant of and to the non-Jewish others who used to live in these very lands which now constitute Israel. In essence, and in my personal perception, those who were so mercilessly prosecuted and persecuted became the oppressors of others. Some say that much of it is justified by the need of this tiny state to survive at all and any cost, and against any and all odds, including the many neighboring countries which continue to consider Israel to be an imposition of the Western world, an invader of their former lands, an intruder who should be wiped out, pushing its people into the sea, from which we all originated. As years went by, this state of being has became the status quo. Thus, while the people I met were welcoming and hospitable, the “Promised Land” from which I have returned feels all but promised.
Even though I spent only 9 days there, half of which dedicated to conducting of my creative workshops, due to my interest, and thanks to support of open-minded people, I was able to visit, converse with and listen to the perspectives from both sides, Israeli and the Palestinian. Believe me, their views are all but black and white, all but uniformed, all but clear to me, or even themselves. But the unifying motto, the wish, the dream shared by all of those I spoke to was that of a yearning for an eventual true peace. This desire comes in all forms of expressions: verbal, visual, written and artistic, some peaceful and some not. Yet this intensity and this essence is what could bring these vastly diverse people together.
So why is this not happening? Is it because of the governing powers controlling politics and the minds of those on the opposing sides? Is it that the politicians use the ancient hates, histories, religions, “tradition” and millennium ancient discourses, superstitions or suspicions to manipulate their people, instead uniting them against the “others”? Is this simply another case of the use of fear, luck of understanding, political and cultural differences and religions to harness and rein the population in? If so, this is all but new, nor is unique to the land of Israel. It only happens that here, in this ancient land, all these dynamics, stresses, tensions and frictions are so much more condensed, intense, extracted to their very essence.
Thus, as I write this blog, my mind and emotions are in turmoil, which is likely to last for some time to come. But without such challenges we humans settle into a groove which, over time, can transform us into mulls that blindly, and step after a step, dig themselves into a deeper and deeper ditch of increasing darkness, repetitiveness and restrictive horizons. The great truth is that some of us still have a choice!
The “Old City” of Jerusalem is an amazing and a undeniably unique place, for many reasons. It is not just because it represents the origin of the majority of the ancient religions, beliefs and cultures, and the fact that within this tiny space reside the key landmarks associated with humanity’s origins and its religious beliefs. While tiny in physical scale, and further divided into four key parts: the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian, it, at least to me, and for these precise reasons, this very space projected a powerfully meaningful symbol of human ability to achieve a sense of coexistence the whole world can learn from.
Looking at both the above signs makes me wander and question the extend to which we, the humanity, have truly evolved. The first sign offers an intensely meaningful interpretation of a historically religious perspective on the very “Origin of it All”. Let me stress, it does so from the viewpoint of the current religious understanding of how we came to be, and the role this truly unique place played in the related events which have transformed into the very foundation of our civilization. It projects, at least to this atheist, a very romantic and magical notion of the Creation from which we all have evolved. On the other hand, the other sign, painfully and bluntly questions the very extend to which we have evolved, if at all?
Looking at the below images one can appreciate why these very ground are so precious to the Christians. The church on the left, below, is where, allegedly, Jesus was born. While the place on the right, below, is supposedly the very location where Jesus was judged and then sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate.
I ask myself, and you, if such places do not speak infinite volume and mighty meanings, then what does?
The same can be said for the Muslims, for the golden dome and the mosaic embellish entrance lead to the Dome of the Rock, which Muslims believe commemorates Muhammad's miraculous “Night Journey” into heaven. And thus, as I had already expressed, such are the essences of what makes this parcel truly precious. So should it not be shared and treasured not by one people but by all, the humanity at large?
Yet despite some disparities in the economic wealth and prosperity amongst the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian residents, but maybe because of the eternal meaning of this place, they all manage to live together surrounded by the vastness that seems to be incapable of such a fit. After having wandered up and down and through it, it became clear to me that this tiny place ought to be transformed into a truly international city that is not owned or governed by any nation but instead stands alone as a symbol of peaceful human coexistence, of the fact that despite surrounding insanity, peace is possible.
Yet based on the opinions heard from all sides, this is a utopian dream that will remain unattainable for long time to come, if ever? Can you imagine living, day after day, under such a impassable cloud? Can you envisage what it does to your mind, to your ambitions, to your opinion of your own humanity?