Somewhere inside each and every Palestinian and Israeli is a noble human soul–the most magical, unquenchable, irrepressible entity on the planet. Come out, come out, wherever you are! Come out and get to work!
I’m talking to you out there, all nine million of you — my Eastern Mediterranean sisters and brothers and cousins from the Jordan River to the sea, from Mt. Hermon to the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba: Step back from the fray, take a deep breath, and look at the landscape here with a broad, all-encompassing perspective. Forget about the guns and the soldiers for a second. What do you see? I see more than nine million people with infinite potential who are doing very little to actualize it because they’re too busy battling over who is in charge, who is right, who is holier, who has been more wronged by the other, who better deserves the world’s support. What a waste!
Arab, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Baha’i, Palestinian, Israeli, guest (foreign) worker: We all add up to a vast cosmic wealth of magical human creativity drawn from many lands and many traditions, most of which is being criminally squandered for lack of a unifying vision of sufficient beauty and drama to gather us all together under its wings. And while all that talent and energy literally bleed away into the earth, a few thousand of us are actually (if often anonymously) pleased because they profit handsomely, one way or another, from the status quo. When are the rest of us going to wake up? (I particularly hoped someone would wake up in time for the January elections in Israel but, thus far, all the candidates appear to be sleepwalking.)
Who profits now
Who is profiting from the status quo, you ask? A few examples: Those who trade in weapons; those who trade in the labor of the disenfranchised during times of crisis like these, such as the extortionate foreign-worker wholesalers and the bureaucrats and politicians who grease the wheels of their deals, and the sex trade magnates whose cynically cruel commerce would be drastically marginalized in normal times; the very wealthiest citizens with posh second and third homes abroad, who can afford to remain unmoved by the escalating chaos threatening to bury the rest of us; tragically misguided clergy of any faith who use the ethical lapses of the other side to prove that the Eternal God of All the Universe is on this or that side, thereby diminishing our concept of the Deity to something akin to a Mafia power broker in a local election campaign; self- serving political and military strategists who plan unforgivably brutal campaigns and cynically wait to launch them until some suitable provocation is offered by the other side–you get the idea.
Let us remember, however, that our salvation will not be attained by focusing on the few who profit from the status quo. Our salvation will come rather from changing the mindset of the many (all the rest of us) who have been letting them get away with it, and sometimes cheering them on.
Reclaiming our pride
In historical terms, over several centuries, our collective religious, artistic, scientific, and philosophical heritage gives us much to be proud of. And the modern Palestinian diaspora of the last half century, like the long Jewish diaspora that preceded it, has proven over and over again how capable we are in exile of distinguishing ourselves in academia, in public life, in the various learned professions: working hard, educating our children, rising above all obstacles to contribute on many levels to the society around us. Yet here at home, look at us–not moving ahead to forge a better future together, but the opposite: marching backward into brutality, anarchy, and poverty.
So long as we continue to focus on outwitting and outmaneuvering one another to see who can capture the lion’s share of the pie (while the other fellows, to hell with them!, can starve, for all we care), we are dooming ourselves to more of the same. Wake up, brothers and sisters! Wake up, cousins! The only way to deconstruct the dead- end dynamic born of our collective stubbornness, short-sightedness and greed is to harness our collective synergy. Synergy is the magical self-empowerment that comes with the realization that the whole is capable of far, far more than the sum of its parts. Our synergy can save us, but first we have to unshackle it.
We’re almost there
The Israeli-Palestinian women’s peace movement has birthed an inspired new slogan in the last year or so around the theme of “we refuse!” as in: We refuse to be enemies! This is a giant step in the right direction. What’s needed now is to vault past the negative mindset (what we know we must stop doing) to a new cohesive vision that is marked by a truly positive, proactive, vibrant, inclusive, glass-half-full approach. We need a powerful new self-help campaign for the whole nine million plus. Without delay, now, today, we must start thinking of ourselves as a nine-million-strong collective because, like it or not, we have a common destiny: We can go on as we are, spiraling down into ever-worsening despair; or we can roll up our sleeves and start working together to make this land a realm of enlightened prosperity for all. We certainly have the raw material required, and then some. We are more than nine million talented, passionate, energetic people here. Let’s bring everyone into the game, for a change: the whole nine million plus.
You know, that’s actually a pretty good name for a new and creative enterprise here: The Whole Nine Million Plus. How about a good Eastern Mediterranean fusion theme song for the new campaign? We have a lot of talented lyricists and composers living somewhere between the Jordan and the sea. Go for it! Get to work! Write us a good song we can all learn to sing… together. Today is a fine day to get started.
DEB REICH, author, editor, and translator for Ha’aretz- International Herald Tribune and for NPOs in civil rights and related fields, was born in Manhattan and educated at Barnard College. She lives and works in Karkur, Israel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.