2017-12-22 – I arrived in Jerusalem just a few days after the 1973 war. My mission was to study Talmud in preparation for entering a rabbinical program the next year. That never came about. After a few months of Talmud study, I switched to an Ulpan, an intensive program aimed at Hebrew fluency.
I was warned, before entering the Ulpan, to stay away from the Americans. “They’re gonna want to speak English to you,” I was told. “Find people who don’t speak English so you can talk to them in Hebrew. You’ll learn much faster.” So that is what I did. At that time, there were some Russians and one Palestinian. I talked to all of them. In Hebrew.
Since this took place after a brutal war, politics was a big topic. And here is what I learned from my Palestinian classmate: “Sure, I’m 100% behind the national aspirations of my people. But, in the meantime, I want to do the best I can for my family.”
After more than 40 years, I don’t remember this guy’s name, but I do remember what he said to me—and how the politics can be at odds with the simple aspirations of families. Not just for Palestinians, but for everybody.
In the years since, I’ve more and more seen that troublemakers on both sides love to stir animosities in ways that benefit them personally and hurt the ordinary person just trying to make a good life for themselves and their families. To put it in modern American terms, the troublemakers are the 1%. The 99% would like nothing better than to be left alone.
So, when Trump announces to the world that he is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he is stirring animosity. I actually believe that what he did is the right thing—at a theoretical level. But we’re not operating at a theoretical level. The purpose of the action was to be provocative and it achieved it’s purpose. And when most of the world in the UN condemns him right back, the condemnation is merely symbolic and, again, intended to stir the pot. They are all playing to the 1%.
If Trump, or the nations of the world, wished to deliver peace to the 99% of Israelis and Palestinians who live in that land, they wouldn’t be cheerleading for the makers of war. They all do it. Neither flavor of 1%ers want peace. But the 99%ers do.
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