Saturday, January 26, 2008

Double Vision: Part 2

I have been reminded again and again of the importance of really listening to those we disagree with, of really trying to understand where they are coming from, of, in Volf's worlds, placing ourselves behind their eyes so that we can see the world as they see it (at least to a certain degree). This does not mean agreeing with everything they say, or saying that all positions are of the same validity, but it is granting a common humanity to your "enemy." It is approaching issues of injustice with both boldness and humility. Yes, we take a hard stand on what we consider injustice, but at the same time we realize that what we may consider justice might be flawed. It is in the process of action that we continually step back and say "am I really seeing the situation correctly?" and then guiding one's action accordingly. Humility and activism... a seemingly dissonant pair.

So in continuation of this line of thought begun with my last post, I now want to include another Jewish voice, that of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is from the intro to his "a Durable Peace" and, I think, represents quite well much of the ethos and thinking that lies behind much of the action of the Israeli people and government. Here it is:

" For the Jewish people, therefore, the history of the twentieth century may be summed up as thus: If there had been a Jewish state in the first half of the century, there would have been no holocaust . And if there had not been a Jewish state after the Holocaust there would be no Jewish future. The State of Israel is not only the repository of of the millennial Jewish hopes for redemption; it is also the one practical instrument for assuring Jewish survival."

"Israel at the start of the twenty-first century is undoubtedly one of the greatest success stories of the twentieth century. Communism, fascism, socialism, and so many other "isms" have crumbled into dust. But Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, the one true liberation movement amidst so many false ones, has far from crumbled."

"...the last fifty years have shown that the Jewish people will survive, and that against all obstacles the Jewish state will prevail."

I will only briefly note that this notion of "survival," defense, and victimhood play a very strong role in politics today. "Never again" is in the back of many people's consciousness.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Double Vision: Seeing Through the Eyes of the Enemy

Over Christmas break I read Exclusion and Embrace (see book list on right of blog), a book that significantly challenged and shaped my views of how we are to pursue justice, reconciliation and peace between those we consider our enemies. Over the next several posts I will be commenting and developing some of the ideas presented in this book and applying them to the situation in Israel/Palestine.

A major premise in Volff's work is the following. In situations of injustice and oppression, whether as a victim or as one fighting on behalf of victims, the tendency is to become enslaved to an exclusive commitment to one's own cause: "we are pursuing justice, they are perpetuating injustice." We are completely right, they are completely wrong; we are the victims they are the oppressors. Volff argues that this is problematic on many levels and encourages the pursuit of "double vision," the ability to step into the shoes of the other and to try to see things from their perspective:

"Our understanding of God's justice is imperfect and we often pervert justice even as we seek to do it...[we must] enlarge our thinking by letting the voices and perspectives of the other, especially with those with whom we may be in conflict, resonate within ourselves, by allowing them to help us see them, as well as ourselves, from their perspective, and if needed, readjust our perspectives as we take into account their perspectives."

To begin some of this work of double vision I would like to present a diverse set of voices that haven't been heard much in this blog. Voices, though with whom I may often disagree, can still learn from.

Voices from Sderot:

Many of you may be aware of the situation in Sderot, southern Israel. Let me summarize briefly:

Residents of Gaza have been firing rockets at this city, nearly daily, for over a year, causing much fear and distress among the residents of this city. Meanwhile within Gaza, the Palestinian residents find themselves walled in and largely shut out from the rest of the world. They are unable to leave, short on fuel and fresh water and largely jobless. Hopelessness prevails. (see the links on the right to Haaretz and Palestine News for more news on Gaza).

Israeli Woman in Sderot (

I have been living in Sderot for almost twenty years. For five and a half years I have been ‘breathing’ Qassams. Some of them fell a few meters from my home, and for the first time in my life I comprehended the emotional meaning of the expression ‘victims of shock and anxiety.’ All the daily worries that were generously exported to the public are familiar to me too. All the rituals that emerged around the anxieties: To jump in response to any unusual noise, to watch the sky while walking in the city, to bolt out of bed like an automaton at three in the morning and run to the security room, to tensely wait for the boom, to verify that everybody is okay, and so on again.

Nevertheless, I want to sound a slightly different voice. Or at least, different than the stereotyped voices that are recycled endlessly in the media. I will not say anything new or original here that has not already been said before me. The only validity to my words is the fact that I am a resident of Sderot.
Let me start by saying that the repeated calls ‘to destroy Beit Hannon’, ‘to raze Gaza’, ‘to black out cities’ and to ‘turn off the water’ horrify me when they are uttered by a frustrated public. They are even more horrifying when they are stated by public figures, ministers and journalists who are expressing empathy with the people of Sderot. These are calls for which there cannot be empathy! When one repeats the same call so many times, it inadvertently becomes legitimate, part of the daily agenda. What singed the ear five years ago is suddenly transformed into acceptable music and then to sweet music. One gets habituated. This process of habituation scares me even more than the Qassams.

Solidarity With Sderot (

The past 48 hours have been some of the most turbulent we have seen on the southern front in recent months. It reflects the slow but sure deterioration of the security situation, building up to an inevitable and major confrontation. No matter how this cycle of hatred began or where it will lead, the consequences are undoubtedly a cause for concern and fear.

The Israel Defense Forces entered the Gaza strip on Tuesday at dawn, in order to intercept brigades firing rockets toward Israel. As a result, 20 armed Palestinian terrorists have been killed. At the same time, a Palestinian sniper killed a South American volunteer working in one of the Kibbutzim.

Since this morning, some 40 Kassam rockets have been fired at Israel and more than 100 have been launched in the past three days, injuring five residents. One missile managed to reach Ashkelon. The firing continued yesterday and today, while the Israel Air Force carried out air strikes which caused the accidental deaths of three uninvolved Palestinians, one of the unfortunate, yet inevitable outcomes of military activity in densely populated areas.

Yesterday, the IDF sent reinforcements to the people of Sderot. Children were accompanied to and from school by soldiers; IDF vehicles patrolled the city and soldiers have been positioned at bus stations and on school buses. The Urban Assistance Center in Sderot has also been reinforced and the IDF will continue to assist residents of Sderot and the neighboring communities.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Traveling to Israel?

(In this post I will begin with some general thoughts and then some more personal news at the end)

Do you know someone traveling to Israel? Pass the following along to them:

As the Christmas holiday’s end, so begin, often, plans for the summer. As Evangelicals, the Holy Land, has a magnetic attraction for people who want to “walk where Jesus walked.” In the last couple weeks I have talked with or overheard of several friends who were traveling to Israel this summer.

There has been much talk in recent years about the concept of ethical tourism. It is nowhere more relevant than in Israel/Palestine where thousands of Christian tourists flock each year and where simultaneously a conflict rages between Israelis and Palestinians. The question for them should be: How can every part of my life, including my travels, be done in a Christ-like manner?

As one who has done the “touristy” thing in Israel I can speak from first-hand experience. Generally, tourism in Israel, especially when done for Christian pilgrims, focuses on historical monuments (such as, say, the Mount of Beattitudes), but largely does its best to steer free from the harsh realities facing both Israelis and Palestinians today. Tours are generally led by Israelis who do their best to present the best possible picture of their land. Rarely are tourists taken into the West Bank or given an opportunity to meet Palestinians. In short, tourism often in Israel becomes the equivalent of tourists in Mexico who stay at beautiful beach resorts, completely ignorant of that fact that two miles down the road are thousands of people living in a slum without running water or electricity. Furthermore, for Christian tourists who have visited Israel, it comes as a shock that there is actually such a thing as a Palestinian Christian. They might have visited all the Christian archaeological sites, but have never encountered the “living stones” of the land, the present day Palestinians who share their faith and worship regularly in a similar manner.

One’s trip to Israel can do one of two things: it can either make worse the existing conflict or it can play a part in encouraging peace. A one sided trip only serves to worsen the conflict by furthering ignorance and by allocating resources lopsidedly. A carefully thought through trip can serve to open one’s eyes to both sides of the story.

SO, several quick tips toward an ethical trip:
1) Read up on the political situation before you go!
2) Make an effort to spend time on both sides of the divide. Make an effort to meet both Jews and Palestinians. Listen to their stories. Travel within both Israel and the West Bank (Gaza is hard to get into presently).
3) Make an effort to attend a Palestinian church service on a Sunday.
4) Be aware of where you spend your money. Try to be evenhanded in your distribution of resources.
5) By all means, leave your tour group every once and a while and meet real people! Be adventurous.

Here are some links to some information about ethical tourism in Israel/Palestine as well as resources on tours while you are there:

1) The Alternative Tourism Group is a Palestinian NGO specializing in tours and pilgrimages that include critical examinations of the history, culture, and politics of the Holy Land
2) The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions is an Israeli group which among other things offers political tours of East Jerusalem:
3)The Holy Land Trust Travel and Encounter is an organization based out of Bethlehem which focuses on arranging trips within the West Bank and Israel
4) Sabeel is an ecumenical Christian organization which seeks reconciliation and justice between Israelis and Palestinians. They also offer tours.
5) Discussion of alternative tourism:
6) The Ethical Challenges of Managing Pilgrimages to the Holy Land (paper)

Personal Note:

Praise God! I found out today that one of my friends who had been arrested this last month was released and is now back with his family. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for my three other friends who are still in jail.