My Journey

In September, 2009, this Canadian boy started a masters program the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, learning about ecology and health, middle-eastern politics and the environment, and how a dire problem may facilitate a region's coming together for the better. This Blog is a record of my head-first dive into this immense world.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Community of Peace in a Moment of Crisis

There’s nothing like a crisis in your region to increase your readership, and the bar on my Google Analytics monitoring spiked yesterday.  I realized, though, that what I wrote yesterday was knee-jerk, following the media feed, and that I’m not really in the position to evaluate what’s going on.  Even the update I provided, based on speaking to more people and reading a wider variety of sources after a day of statements, press releases, and media frenzy, all I did was really parrot what was going on online, and add to it some real thoughts, feelings and frustrations that were searching for an outlet.  They found that outlet through the crack that formed in all of our sanity yesterday.  Therefore, I would like you all to read the previous post as an exercise in the hazards of new media citizen journalism and jumping to conclusions, but please take the latter half of the second paragraph seriously, about the future of Israel.  I’m not going to change anything about what I wrote yesterday, to preserve it as a real moment in time.
                But I also realized that I didn’t talk at all about what I’m actually qualified to talk about, and what I’m sure is much more interesting for someone reading this blog – and that’s what happened here at the Machon.  Leading up to the event, a flurry of e-mails went around about the Free Gaza flotilla, with some barbs and quips as people voiced their political views, but nothing that our community doesn’t daily absorb in stride.  Then, early in the morning as news started filtering in, the magnitude of the events began to manifest itself.  Immediately people were shaken up, furious, confused, and scared.  People lost their minds a little bit, cried, yelled, and waited impatiently for the next update.  Angry political e-mails were balanced by exhortations to come together and support each other through this, and there were even a few frantic half-baked plans to get up to Ashdod for demonstrations.  Then there were the official statements from the Machon administration (who we all know very well, small as this place is) telling us to remain calm, hang together as a group, not jump to conclusions, and especially not to jump into demonstrations and political acts without full knowledge of what will be going on, the nature of the demonstrations, who is organizing, et cetera. 
                You also have to realize that we’re not just a peace group; we’re a school/community.  Classes went forward, and people agonized over having to split their time between researching, writing, and preparing for our flurry of final projects and being with each other and processing this news as a group.  Seriously, who cares about the minutiae of the differences between market-based and command-and-control environmental policy at a time like this?   I have to say that it was probably not the most productive academic day in the Machon’s history.  At the day’s end though, two major things spontaneously emerged from our group – a screaming session in the desert out back of the kibbutz to vent and relieve our frustrations (thank you BKR), and a listening circle on campus to check in and gauge where we all are, share our feelings and views, and most of all to reaffirm our friendship, community, and devotion to dialogue and peace through the worst of the conflict.  I can only imagine what things looked like here last January, during the Gaza war.
                Life goes on here, and we all stumble forward through the feelings in our stomachs and the slight trauma to our psyches.  But much more importantly than anything I wrote yesterday, which you can read about a million places on the web, I wanted to broadcast to the world the reality of what goes on at this amazing place in the middle of the desert – in the midst of this crisis that is polarizing the world, Jews from North America and Israel, Palestinians, and Jordanians came together to vent, yell, hug, cry, share, support, and build.  At a time when people from every side were using the senseless violence out at sea to polarize and divide, we used it to come together and build our community even stronger. 
Let’s be clear.  This isn’t easy.  Some people, especially the Arab students but far from exclusively, will be getting excessive heat from their families and home communities for being stupid, young, idealistic and naive enough to be collaborating with an enemy at a time like this.  And at times like these it is easiest to give up and yourself question what the hell you’re doing here, especially if you’ve made personal sacrifices and are watching relations in the region deteriorate despite all that we’ve gained in this little island in the desert.  I’m different.  I’m from Canada, with a Canadian passport, with an out if things get tough.  I grew up in secure, wealthy countries where things like this just didn’t happen and I feel disoriented and over my head.  I am endlessly inspired by the people around me, whose courage surpasses by orders of magnitude anything from fools who hide behind weapons and violence.  The truly radical person believes that utopia is possible, despite the odds.  Albert Camus wrote in the Rebel: The rebel “attacks a shattered world in order to demand unity from it. He opposes the principle of justice which he finds in himself to the principle of injustice which he sees being applied in the world...all he wants, originally, is to resolve this contradiction and establish the reign of justice.”    I am convinced more and more every day that non-violence, peace-building, reaching out, and fighting injustice by living a just life full of good and hard work, with respect for each other and our environment, is the only way to the salvation of our fully global community.

Hard work and hope
Trump hard luck and trouble
This world is it; I will make it my home
This world is it; I will make it my own
-Old Man Luedecke, from Just Like a River

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