Monday, June 6, 2011

Peace Between Arabs and Israelis: Another Opportunity Lost

I wish I really believed it would happen someday. I used to. Now I cling to the idea of peace and mutual respect and cooperation, like a drowning person clings to a life preserver, but I really don’t believe it’s possible.

I do believe that if I can stay centered in spirit, I will understand how I can contribute to the peace I seek. But the guidance from spirit is faint and not very encouraging to my ego [It never is, of course]. The guidance is: blog about it; talk about realizing that, ‘if we always do what we always did, we’ll always get what we always got.’

Choosing sides and the either/or thinking, blaming and guilt we are so enchanted by, and the half truths, lies and factual inaccuracies that go with them, will not work. Time to try something different; to look at the situation more honestly; and accurately, and understand that by looking that way, a better way to go forward toward peace might become clear. Bottom line, the present situation is unsustainable in the long term, probably the short term as well.

Looking honestly and accurately at Jerusalem is a good place to start, especially since I read an article by Uri Dromi in the Herald’s Opinion section, last Friday, that supports my own experience of the city four years ago. Dromi points out that Jerusalem is actually three cities: the Jewish nonreligious one; the Jewish religious one; and the Arab one. These three cities could have lived next to each other in harmony, under a joint metropolitan framework, but that’s not the case in reality.

Arab Jerusalem, on the east side, suffers from four decades of neglect of its infrastructure and services, and its population is poor. The inhabitants of the Jewish-religious (ultra-orthodox) city are poor as well. The number of people who actually go to work in these two cities is relatively low, because of a lack of jobs available for the Arabs, or unwillingness of ultra-orthodox to work because of religious reasons. The third city, the Jewish nonreligious typically Western middle class one, is paying taxes and carrying the other two cities on its back.

The populations of the Arab and ultra-orthodox cities are growing, growth in the middle class city is stagnating and declining. The middle class city will have to take care of ever bigger, ever poorer populations in the other two cities. The average age in the middle class city is 40, in the Arab city 20, and in Mea Shearim, the ultra-orthodox city, 15. The culture wars now raging are accelerating and they are the last thing the middle class city needs or can tolerate much longer.

In summing up, Dromi says, “Arab Jerusalem should be handed over to the Palestinians, and the sooner the better; the ultra-orthodox must be encouraged to join the workforce and pay for improvements to their neighborhoods, and the middle class should be regarded as no less than a national strategic asset. If it falls, Jerusalem will fall as well.”

Clear, sobering perspective, free of the win/lose debating society sophistry that currently passes for dialogue, clearly pointing out the unsustainable nature, not just of the situation in Jerusalem, but in the entire region. Thank you, Uri Dromi for telling the truth. If we can face this truth centered in spirit, perhaps the win/win solution of peace will emerge. If we deny this truth and lie about it, if we always do what we always did, we’ll always get what we always got….

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