As Israelis and Palestinians, it’s easy for us to become disillusioned and lose the vision for peace. This is especially true after this past year brought us a horrific war in Gaza, followed by a cycle of violence that some have termed a Third Intifada. Tensions have continued to simmer and it seems that even the optimists have lost the ability to hope or dream.
Because of this, we feel compelled to share two short dreams for 2015 and beyond — one written by an Israeli woman and the other a Palestinian. These are both a part of a blogging series by a group of Israeli and Palestinian women, featured on the blog Another Voice.
My dream really goes well beyond 2015, but I hope it begins there and that 2015 can be the year that sets a new course for all of us and, especially, my son’s generation.
It seems but a distant dream, one that a few keep trying to grasp but is so elusive. The majority in our societies keeps pushing it further and further away from our children’s reach, carelessly ready to leave them bankrupt and with an even bleaker future than we have.
But I see this dream written on my son’s peaceful face as he sleeps or in the innocent joy of his smile and it gives me renewed hope that it is perhaps possible. And then I can’t help but dream and think about how I want this place to be for him:
A place in which he, and those of his generation, will not be taught to settle into the role of either the oppressed or the oppressor, but will be taught justice and mercy.
A place in which he and others his age can grow up with a true appreciation for each other and can see the positive contributions that each culture has made on the other, without letting go of their own culture and identity in the process.
A place that does not forget but also repents and forgives. Where he will learn of both the injustices committed against his own people and those his people committed against others, without shame and without whitewashing.
A place where sticking up for those who have no voice is not seen as weakness, and where standing up for your own rights is not seen as dangerous or threatening.
A place in which the mainstream does not tell him his identity as a man in this region is wrapped up mainly in proving himself through violence or militancy, or through objectifying and demeaning women.
A place in which, as we saw in the past year, he will not have to fear rockets raining down on him or, on the other hand, be protected at the expense of another child, but where he and a child in Gaza can eventually both be free to pursue their dreams in safety.
A place that will not bully him and others who go against the grain and work to build friendships, communities and a society that is mutually beneficial, and where they do not have to fear the burning of schools or being labeled a traitor just because they are willing to work towards this.
A place where he can live, love and laugh in freedom and do so alongside both Palestinian and Israeli children.
Finally, a place where a Palestinian mother, looking into the face of her smiling or sleeping child can have her hopes and dreams realized alongside my own.
Some would tell me I just need to go back to the US for such a possibility because it will never exist here, so why remain. But I can’t help hoping that these dreams could be realized in this most impossible of places, this place that has become a part of me, for better or for worse. This place where I plan to raise my children, all the while desiring and pursuing something for them that is yet unattainable.
Shouldn’t we all be desiring this, though? How can we look into our children’s eyes and yet forever work against it?
We can say that only God will do this for our children in some distant event but I also hope that in this next year more of us will realize our responsibility to do what we can to see this reality come just a little closer.
In the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). He didn’t say “blessed are the passively peaceful and nice people.” Making something requires acting, not just hoping it all comes together. So may we actively pursue peace in this next year, not just for ourselves but for the generation that is still too innocent to know the difference.
My hopes and dreams look to the future, far beyond 2015, far beyond the short-term. When we talk about hopes, I am hopeful. I choose to look at a cup as half full rather than half empty. And I believe we can accomplish much if we put our efforts toward a better future, starting (or continuing) into 2015.
In general, Palestinian people are not hopeful or positive about the future, and I wish to play a part in changing this dreary outlook on our present, for what we do in the present will create our future. Those who have the most negative views are those who cross the checkpoint and face harassment on a daily basis, or those who live in Gaza and have the least access to good medical care or a good education.
I have a passion to encourage those around me, particularly women. I want women to be empowered to do more, and to be more than contemporary culture would allow. I want women to see past the present constraints, to dream something, to be something more, whatever it is that they want to be. I want to encourage people with the word of God. I might not be the most straightforward person when it comes to witnessing to people, but I believe that if we want to change something, to show someone something different, something better, that we first need to live it.
My dream for Palestinians is that every Palestinian would be equal to any other human, Israeli or a person from another country. I dream that my people would give up their visions of violence, for violence is self-perpetuating.
I dream that Israel would likewise give up its vision of violence, and stop with the incessant claim that it must maintain its violence (its unending show of military strength) for its security, and see that its security is tied to ours. There is no our security versus their security. For Israel to be secure, so must Palestine.
I want to see the existing non-violent movements (and yes, they are among us!) gain more support, both locally and internationally. I want the world to understand that those who favor violence in Palestine do not represent all Palestinians, just as I understand that Israeli extremists who favor violence do not represent the entire Jewish nation.
I want to see justice take its place at the center of public discourse, a discussion that leads to action. I want us to have justice, by which I mean equal rights with those living in Israel/Palestine. I want this for Palestinians, but also for other minorities in Israel and Palestine. I want to see people treated the same, with dignity and respect. I want us to be recognized, to have the freedom to travel, the right to job opportunities, the right to boost our economy, the right to access high quality medical care, the right to equal education and access to any school or field. I want all these things for Palestinians, not just to enrich our minds and our lives, but also so we can use these tools to better care for those around us.
I know that there are many countries with people suffering more than us, but people in these countries have hopes, and these hopes are very similar to ours. Those who left their countries by force have hopes to return, and I hope this with them and for them that they will one day return to their land, to their homes, and rebuild what was destroyed.
Personally, I want my children to have the best education I can possibly give them. I want them to live in peace without fear. I want them to grow to respect their neighbor rather than fear them. I want them to find a place to play, a place to smile, a place to laugh — places where they have no visual reminders of their secondary status, of their inequality. I want them to be among equals, and I want this place to be here.
Another Voice is a blog authored by a team of eight Palestinian and Israeli women who write about life, faith and the pursuit of peace within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The bloggers come from both Jewish and Christian backgrounds, as well as the Messianic Jewish community. This lends the blog a unique and diverse blend of perspectives, all from women with a common desire for peace.