It’s always an option ~ always a choice ~ to decide to go home by another way. Since it is an unknown path, it may evoke fear. But could it not also be a doorway to new horizons, new understandings, new possibilities?
It is midterm orientation in mid-October. All 33 EAs, together with visiting family, make the bus trip to Netiv HaAsara, a small cooperative agricultural community near Sderot in Israel, an area which has often been the target of rockets from Gaza. Here we meet Roni, an amazing woman and a member of Other Voice, a grassroots group promoting non-violence and new sustainable options for all in the region.
Roni welcomes us to her home and tells her story of being relocated from the northern Sinai 30 years ago when it was returned to Egypt. With help from the Israeli government, 70 families made their home here in this fertile coastal area less than a kilometer from Gaza. The Palestinians of Gaza were their nearest neighbors with whom they formed relationships, both economic and personal. But that was then. Before the wall.
Today the people of Gaza are still their closest neighbors, but they are imprisoned behind the wall. One would assume that all communication is now broken ~ all relationships severed. But Other Voice has chosen another path. They have found ways to keep the lines of communication open between residents of the Sderot region and their neighbors in the Gaza strip. They are devising creative avenues to “hear, see, and meet each other.” And they are outspoken. During the November assault on Gaza, Other Voice issued an open letter to the Israeli government and Hamas, condemning the violence. “Militarism and aggression have led to a dead end!” ~ They want more for their children than endless war. They want better lives for their neighbors than living in an open air prison. ~ They are not numerous, but they are strong and brave and visionary.
The Parents Circle – Families Forum is another inspiring group of wise visionaries who have chosen another way. They always come in pairs ~ a Jew and a Palestinian ~ to tell their stories of heartbreak and grief. Rami relates how his beloved 13-year-old daughter was killed by a suicide bomber. Moira relates how her beloved husband was gunned down by Israeli police following a car accident. These amazing individuals and many like them have experienced the unspeakable, and in their common grief they have chosen to engage and befriend the “other,” the one labeled “enemy.” In their joint pain they have found joint hope and forged new friendships. And so they go about their work of spreading this message ~ “We can’t keep killing each other’s children. We have to find another way” ~ They are committed to reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge ~ one person at a time ~ They believe that through dialogue with the other, understanding and empathy can pave the way to peace.
One looks at these shining examples of courage and deep intention, and one wonders why the country’s leaders cannot be as wise ~ In the stories of our tradition which give us this season of Epiphany, the “wise ones” were prompted to return home by another way ~ Will we be as wise? Will the upcoming elections in Israel result only in a determination to keep on walking down a dead end road, even though there are warning signs everywhere? ~ When the known way has reached a dead end, or is taking us nowhere, or has shown itself to be too dangerous to carry on, can we risk choosing the road less traveled, the “other way,” which just might lead us home?