May 28, 2018 – The Settlements

What a day.  So often our preconceptions about a person or a group, based upon an ideology with which they identify, prevent us from recognizing their humanity.  This was the case for me with the Jewish settlers of the contested territories.  

Our day began with a presentation from an academic to lay out the issues and arguments used to justify different perspectives about this issue.  An image from this discussion,  which was invoked throughout the day, was crafted 2000 years ago in the Talmud.  In Tractate BabaMetziah, dealing with property laws, a question is posed based upon a previously a previous discussion of ownership being transferred when the recipient liftsthe object: if two people find an object, like a blanket, on the ground and both liftthe object at the same time, who owns it?  This idea, two peoples with legitimate claims to the same piece of land, is of vital import in how different groups approach the question of the settlement.  

The rabbis then answer their question, their question with a Solomonic approach: cut the object, the blanket in half and each party receives half.  Some of the settlers agree with this notion, and as a result would be willing to even vacate their homes, split the land, and have each side walk away with their own piece of property.  Others adhere to the view that the land of Israel, as biblically defined, is not like a blanket, but rather like a baby, and therefore indivisible.  

But even more powerful than the discussions of ideology was meeting these people.  Hearing their stories and meeting their families humanized the settlers and Palestinians for me.  Understanding their passions and pains, not only humanized them, but added a layer of emotional complexity to an already intellectually complicated issue. 

There was a glimmer of hope, presented by most sides throughout the day, though most agreed that discussions of final or 2 state solution are premature.  Most agreed that before political details get hammered out, all sides need to experience the others.  They need to have their counterparts humanized; they need to see the image of God in those with whom they disagree.  Only when all parties see the others and human beings, with hearts and souls, sons and daughters, fears and passions can any progress toward peace be made.  God willing, this can happen soon.  

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