“Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than a patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for a society to kill an idea.”
Robert Pirsig




My thoughts have been moving towards a post I intend to publish on oDharma about blogging. Those thoughts have not yet consolidated but this morning they led me in a surprising direction – to thoughts about nationality. If you speak Hebrew then I invite you to view this talk by Yeshayahu Leibovitz (a prominent Israeli philosopher) from 1982 in which he tackles a volatile political question “To whom does Israel belong?”:

The dialogue begins when an Israeli farmer describes a conversation he had with his arab (Palestanian!?) neighbor who said to him that the land he is working belonged to him 30 years ago and was taken from him. The Israeli farmer also admits that he sometimes hires his arab neighbor  to work the land (the very land that was taken from  him) for him. The Israeli farmer asks how to face that question – what can he say so that they (he and his arab neighbor) can live in peace.

Prof. Leibovitz answers that “no people have any right to any land” that even “the Swedish people do not have a right to Sweden” – there is no such “right”. He explains that the existence of a country is a result of a large group of people (a majority?) who share a common relationship to a land – it is what  is in their hearts that associates a people to land and makes it into a country. Israel is (and this he said almost 30 years ago) in a difficult position – because there are two people’s claiming an association of ownership with the same physical land. This is not a legal matter and therefore cannot be debated as such and pretending otherwise is just plain stupid. It is a matter of heart(s) – and hearts don’t reason. Prof. Leibovitz then goes on to say that there are only two possible solutions to this situation (emphasizing that there isn’t a 3rd) – either a fight to the death (nothing less) or the reknown solution of separation – two countries for two people’s.

These two solutions used to delineate a clear structure in  Israeli politics – the right embracing all out war  and the left embracing peace through separation. Over the last 30 years two processes of evolution have occured. (1) There are no clear mainstream political delineations anymore (though there are small extremist groups on both sides) –  the idea of separation-as-a-solution engulfs both right and left – leaving a mediocre and stale political system. (2) The realities of life have created a friction-filled but single living entity. On the national level Palestinian territories rely on Israel for basic sustenance – things like electricity and food (I’m sure there is much more and two way business – I simply do not have more information on it) are sold from Israel to Palestinian territories. On a local level, having lived for 18 month with arab neighbors (within as-yet uncontroversial Israeli borders) – lives are completely intermingled on a day-today basis.

I wonder if time has revealed a refined perspective – I am offering myself as an example – my Judaism is just an inherited title, my Israeli nationality is also a reality into which I was born (yet, especially now that I’ve left Israel, I can say there is a sense of belonging and connection though no longing to the place). I have come to believe that most people share common interests, things like a house, food, a sense of security, kids, education. It’s really not very complicated – yet somehow (and today my finger is pointed more in the direction of industrialization and capitalism than it is at politics and religion) leaderships and societies seem to lose sight of that. I’m sure that even right-wing extremists enjoy a warm embrace, a nice dinner and seeing their kids grow and mature.

That’s how I live my life and how I meet and experience others. I prefer an experience of connection over an experience of separation – as seems to be the case with actual life in Israel (not political life or the life-image depicted in mass media). I am constantly discovering that if I let my guard down my mind draws a picture that distorts or even goes against what is in my heart. One way I can tell which is dominant is through a simple rule of thumb – if I experience connection it’s coming from my heart, it I experience separation it’s coming from my mind. What is in the hearts of Israelis & Palestinians is, whether they admit it or not, a shared experience – there is connection. What is in their minds masks that and contorts it into separation. Even if the two leaderships eventually find a “solution of separation” they will quickly need to create “mechanisms of connection” because hearts and life will demand it.

Ironically – there is something else shared by Israeli and Palestinian societies – they are both filling their minds and the minds of their young with wrong perception, perception that creates a sense of enmity, separation, insecurity and eventually violence. That can be changed – though I am not sure it will be (sometimes death arrives before enlightenment). Minds can be changed – it happens all the time 🙂 Separation is not sustainable in the long term – it’s against nature. My contribution to Israeli society was changing my own mind and allowing that change to echo within my life circles. It doesn’t really matter if I am right or wrong – what does matter – and this is something that largely escapes Israeli society – is that I am a product of Israeli society and I am not the only one.

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