Dear Dharma Friends,
I returned home to Totnes, England on Tuesday evening (17 April 2018) from En Dor in northern Israel.
We held the final residential two weeks of our four weeks of our Agents of Change course. The course offered a training in mindfulness, group dialogue, public speaking and dedicated action for the welfare of people, animals and the environment.
Around 20 people came from overseas including from Germany, Australia, Britain and Scandanavia.
We held a remarkable evening with Jews and Germans sharing stories.
Two evenings later, Lubna, a prominent Palestinian journalist and activist, and I, spoke to the group of Agents of Change.
There were around 55 of us, plus most of the staff of 10, with questions and responses from the participants.
Two days later, Jermal, another senior Palestinian, met with many participants on the lawn.
Both Palestinians spoke firmly and clearly explaining the urgent need for the recognition from the Israeli government of the sovereignty and independence of Palestine.
Both Palestinians recognise the importance of communication, as well as listening to the needs of Israelis and Palestinians.
Israelis responded with calm and clarity. Thoughtful Israelis and Palestinians share an appreciation of an intelligent discussion. We witnessed such a communication during the days of the course.
This week Jermal is in Germany on behalf of Palestine to speak about the Palestinian plight.
Both Palestinians have spent time in Israel political prisons.
On Kabbalat Shabbat: Our retreats make available the Friday evening Jewish ritual for those who wish to attend. The 15-minute ritual marks the beginning of the Sabbath. In a beautiful gesture of respect for the kind expressions of Jewish people, both Lubna and Jermal stepped forward to light a candle on the table with the bread and wine.
The key to meaningful change occurs through numerous acts of reconciliation, dialogue, negotiation, major international aid for health care, hospitals, schools, rebuilding of widespread destruction by the Israeli armed forces and renewal of infrastructure for people in Gaza and West Bank.
Palestinians have to apply their considerable international diplomatic skills to all Israelis. Palestinian leaders need to announce an end to the home-made rockets into Israel and try to bring a halt to the individual violent attacks of angry Palestinians upon innocent Israeli citizens.
April 18/19 2018 marks the 70th Year for Palestinians and Israelis
This week, Palestine marks the 70th year since the Naqba (the Catastrophe) of 1948 when 700,000 Palestinians fled their land or were forced out of their homes to make way for Israel.
This week, Israel marks the 70th year of the Day of Independence with the formation of Israel after the Holocaust and the extermination of a third of the Jewish people worlwide.
There are a growing number of Israeli and Palestinian citizens and organisations , who work towards reconciliation and mutual understanding. More and more people see this approach as the only way forward.
A Personal View
I have paid annual visits to Israel and made numerous visits to Palestine since the start of the 1990s.
Along with others, I continue to support the resolution of this painful history, past and present, through the formation of the unification of a single state – a joint home for all Palestinians and Israelis.
There is a slow, widening of interest in this approach, as Palestinians and Israelis lose hope in a two-state solution.
In the UK, we have England/Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland. Each country has a certain autonomy under the joint name of the United Kingdom.
I would like to see a single state with the name of Palisrael, which provides a degree of autonomy for Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
It would enable the 800,000 Israeli settlers to state in the Occupied Territories and allow Palestinians to fulfil their dream to return to Israel to live and work there. Citizens of Gaza could travel freely in Israel and the West Bank while receiving Israelis and Palestinians, who wish to support the rebuilding of bombed Gaza and widespread destruction of its infrastructure.
Israel is one of the world’s most crowded countries. Israeli citizens, secular and religious, live daily with stress, mutual blame and regular despair. Cost of living is high and wages are low. The Israeli government spends one of the highest percentages of any country in the world of its annual budget on the military. The middle classes and the poor pay the price with daily hardships.
Generally, Palestinians in the Gaza and West Bank endure far greater levels of intense suffering, due to the violent policies of the Israeli government, and its army, the firing upon Palestinian citizens, along with discriminatory treatment of non-Jews, outside and inside Israel. There are thoughtful and compassionate Israelis deeply concerned about the policies of their government and the levels of corruption.
I believe many Israelis would love living in the West Bank with its spacious environment, rolling hills, quiet roads, modest lifestyle, hospitality and the preservation of a rich culture.
The founding fathers of Israel largely turned their back on their Middle East cultural heritage and chose to develop as a North American/European country with a capitalist/consumerist/militarist priority.
An Israeli told me last week: “We needed a home but we messed it up.”
If Europe can recover from two World Wars and form a European network of mutually supportive nations, then a total of 10.5 million Israelis and Palestinians, mostly well-educated, can develop mutual and respectful co-existence as a unified nation.
We experienced Israelis and Palestinians listening to each other at En Dor. We witnessed a depth of communication. Similar projects take place elsewhere.
Reconciliation must take priority.