The last company I worked for in Israel (and the one that relocated me and my family to the US a mere nine months before the high-tech bubble went POP! and POP! went my job) showcased cooperation between Arabs and Moslems and Israelis a lot better than the students in my graduate program in Conflict Studies, and certainly better than the current situation in Gaza and Israel showcases.
The company was an Israeli-based company with an office in Virginia. If I remember correctly, in the US office there was one Saudi (he was the vice president), three Afghani, one Dane, five Americans, and four Israelis (one of whom was the president and CEO). I’m sure I’m forgetting some people, but that is the core that I remember. And the company that produced the give-aways and tee-shirts for us was run by a Palestinian/Jordanian.
Granted, we never discussed politics and discussions were mostly work related. But if there had been any animosities between people, any simmerings of political or religious stew, they certainly would have come up in our interactions in our interminable meetings round the conference table, but they never did. It was always relaxed; we had some very good times around that very big conference table. We used to play word games, because, honestly, how much can you talk about Next Generation software and hardware? We were all hoping that together we could ride the high-tech boom to financial success for all. I mean why not work together if there is a tangible result you are all working towards, and one that has such great potential for all? We had our stock options, we had our hopes, and we had to trust in each other.
And there is the (okay, a) key. We weren’t working together because we had funding from some NGO (non-governmental organization) to foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis, or to see how well Jews and Moslems get along once they get to know the individual and get beyond stereotyping the unknown “other.” We were working together not because of the group we were identified as belonging to, but rather we were individuals with the talents and skills that we brought to the table. We were each there, Jew, Christian, Moslem—and we thrived (relatively, we did go bust after all)—because we were not there as individuals who identified with certain religious and national groups, but as individuals whose identity was just a part of what determined who we became as individuals. Our identity was all the things that made us who we were, we were not typecast.
I know this is simplistic, but it makes me think that one of the requirements for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians can be found in the Hebrew word tachless, which is Hebrew for “what you have after you cut the crap.” Yes, I know, there are layers upon layers of problems, yes I got a degree in how tough it is to solve problems between intransigent groups, and yes I know how much the spoilers from each side can hijack any possibility of peace, and yes I know that the sides have dug mile-deep explanation bunkers and pity stories, but there must be a solution to every problem, or perhaps a number of solutions to every problem.
Human dignity. Don’t we all want to be honored and respected for who we are? Don’t we all want to be able to fulfill our potential and enable our children to fulfill theirs? And don’t we all want our neighbors and our neighbors’ children to do the same? And wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this not because we are obliged to by some external entity, but because it benefits us all. Because we value each other’s lives for what is within. Because my stock options go up when your stock options go up. Because my value as a person goes up when I value others, when I see them for their intrinsic qualities and not their identification. Maybe this train of thought reflects a cultural view that is counter to others’ cultural view, which dooms the whole kumbaya feeling and intent of cooperation that I am talking about, but I can’t help but feel that most people in the core of their core want their lives, this time around, to be worthy—in a good, positive—way.
Everything that is happening now between Israelis and Palestinians serves to sever any chance that they will see the other as a potential partner benefiting each other with stock options. If only we could create a series of partnerships based on skills and interests, and not competition based on fear and loathing. Partnerships based on compatibility, and not competition based on dictates.
Maybe we need different people round those big conference tables. Or maybe what we really need is people sitting round kitchen tables with pens and papers and the open minds of people looking to create a better future—together. But at least thinking of them, at least trying to find the humanity in each other and not just what divides.
This morning on my drive to work I heard a version of “Imagine,” which made me think that getting rid of divisions is counter to human nature, but using those divisions—our uniquenesses—might be the only way that we could eventually create peace. We cannot deny our external and internal differences, but we can use them to create something new. Something that might resemble understanding, which just might resemble peace.
Peace to all.