We are not terrorists
Amid current tensions, overwhelming mistrust threatens to drown any constructive relationships between Jews and Palestinians. But behind the main political stage, critical interfaith and intercultural dialogue, philanthropy and human rights initiatives swim against the tide.
"In 2000, I thought we were turning a corner," says Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious relations for the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem. "Now we are in a state of depression. Israeli peace groups are in disarray because of a general feeling that Palestinians don't want peace. And the Palestinian community has the reverse image of this.
"There's a syndrome of victimhood on both sides of the conflict. There's much dehumanization on both sides. We need honest and even painful self-examination."
"We need a double solidarity, where people have empathy for both sides of the conflict," adds Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (www.icci.co.il). Kronish criticizes Israel's practice of bulldozing Palestinian roads and farmers' fields — and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to stop the suicide bombings.
"With the constant victimization, more than 90 percent of people see only their side," Kronish says. "But peace requires justice for both sides. For Jews the main point is fear of being blown up, fear of terror. I drove my daughter to school for two years. I wouldn't let her ride the bus. I fear people who want the extinction of the state with which I'm identified.
"The two-state solution is going to happen sooner or later. So our job is to help people learn to live together."
Ophir Yarden, director of the Melitz Center for Interfaith Encounter with Israel, says, "Breaking the we-win, they-lose model is difficult, even when this [model] is injurious for both sides. Jews are [historically] hardwired to see themselves as a persecuted minority even when it flies in the face of reality. Israel may look like Goliath with its army, but to many Jews it feels like we're a David."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers