So it’s been an especially vexing summer for everyone listening to all the debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At some point you just want to throw up your hands and say, “Can’t we just all get along?” Well, yes, maybe, but why is that so difficult? I think, well, does everybody in your family get along? They certainly don’t in mine.
In family dynamics, there are roles people play. Sometimes we’re the parent, sometimes the child, and sometimes we switch around. Now, I’ve often heard it said that the Jewish people are like the father, and that the seemingly never-ending stream of anti-Semitism springs from the Oedipal complex, the desire of the sons, Christianity and Islam, the younger religions, to supplant the father, Judaism, the authority figure, in the eyes of the great mother. That’s a Freudian interpretation, and certainly a male perspective. While I can see that, I can also see it a little differently. I see the current situation more like the story of Cinderella, in a family where the older two sisters are always jealous of the youngest.
I see the new nation of Israel, having been created in 1948, as the youngest child, the youngest of three sisters. Her two older step-sisters, the Palestinians, the middle child, and the Arab nations as a whole, the oldest child, wish she’d never been born, so no matter what she does, she can do no right, and they are never going to accept her.
According to them, anything Israel ever did or said is wrong. Simply her existence is an insult, resented. And the more she tried to reach out to them, the more they hated her. And so, if they provoke her and prod her and she defends herself, she is punished for being presumptuous and arrogant, and the more lies they go running to tell about her to her step-mother, the UN. This is the unenviable position Israel finds herself in, as anyone who has ever been the object of envy can testify.
Now, the youngest child is also the one who feels it is incumbent upon her to reach out and make peace in the family, because she tends to carry the weight of the family conflict within her. Even though the older sisters are always going to try to make the younger one look bad, she tries to build bridges, but of course also as anyone in this position knows, it is impossible to reach out to those who envy and hate you, they just hate you more for trying.
Eventually that youngest child, who is wise beyond her years, grows up, matures, recognizes she is not perfect either, she has made mistakes too, but also that it is left up to her to be the adult in the situation now. Israel, who now finds herself in the power position, as the adult, needs to say, I don’t know how we’re going to get along, and even if we don’t have to find a way, we should. But even then, here she is again, thrown back into the family dynamic position as the authority father figure.
The Cinderella story is showing us another way to look at this. Cinderella Israel is visited by her fairy godmother, who with a sweep of her magic wand, Abra-ca-da-bra, (“Ab’ra K’dab’ra –literally…, ‘I create what I speak’” p. 67 Magic of the Ordinary, Gershon Winkler) grants her powers to appear as the beautiful princess at the ball, as Netanyahu did in May before the U.S. Congress, at least until the clock strikes midnight.
The appearance of a fairy godmother should also remind us that we are all grandchildren of this earth. The Navajo and other Native Americans, the spiritual elders of this country, are always praying for us all. What are they saying to earth and sky, and to God, when they pray? If we listen, very carefully, we hear the words that they are saying, “I come before you, I am your baby, I am your child, I am your grandchild.” It takes a grandparent to provide that unconditional love.
So who is the grandparent, the fairy godmother? The only solution I can come up with is to suggest a new-fangled sort of DMZ between Israel and a new Palestinian state, a sort of permanent All-man’s-land, a peace zone, maintained internationally. Better now than later, after midnight strikes and the coach turns into a pumpkin again.
It could be as narrow as the space for a single tall tree whose roots extend beyond human-made boundaries, a tree which reminds us to take ourselves to a higher place to get a perspective, as wide as our imagination allows.
It’s kind of funny how the idea impressed itself on me. I had proposed a radio commentary after hearing diverse viewpoints in the Jewish community. Next thing I knew, Netanyahu was arriving to meet with Obama and address AIPAC and a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Later that week, I paid a visit to the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and discussed the implications of Netanyahu’s policies with the Link’s editorial staff. That office is housed in the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque (JCC). New Mexico license plates have three letters followed by three numbers. Leaving the JCC, at the light at Academy and Wyoming, I couldn’t help but notice the license plate on the car stopped directly in front of me, it read: JCC — . Then, next to it, one that read DMZ—. And, next to that one, slightly hidden, another alongside it, DMZ—. I will post the photos I took of them later. Anyway, this particular synchronicity struck me with far-reaching implications, first, that I now had to take seriously the real possibility of an expanded DMZ, and second, that if that truly is in the cards, that it needs to have some creative thinking applied to it.
This piece, “Israel, Cinderella at the Ball” was first written May 27, 2011, in the weeks following Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress. It was the genesis for a subsequent 3-minute 500 word commentary “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Resolution,” which aired on KUNM radio during the drive-time broadcast of All Things Considered on June 16, as “A Jewish American Perspective on the Israel Palestine Conflict,” and the extended 1000-word “Creating a Zone for Peace: Another Look at the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” published in the New Mexico Jewish Link, August 2011, page 4. All reflect this idea of a peace zone instead of a DMZ.