Editor: In June I traveled to Israel and Palestine — the former to visit friends and family and the latter to conduct a roundtable discussion on the role of universities in strengthening democracy and civil society.
For the past weeks I have been watching with horror the fierce fighting and killing between the two, which seemed as though it would never end. I could find no words to express my personal feelings or my public opinion on the state of affairs in the region. My words seemed irrelevant and insufficient.
At the same time I have been in contact with friends in both nations and will share two of their comments that have made a lasting impression on me.
From the Palestinian friend, “I see hope only when the life of a Palestinian child is valued just as much as that of an Israeli child.”
From the Israeli friend, “Let us hope that sanity will reign and we learn to live side by side with respect. No love needed.”
Let’s not overvalue love and undervalue tolerance and respect. I’m not sure that we can learn to love — but we can learn empathy and respect, and in our increasingly interdependent world it’s important that we cultivate both. While we don’t have the power to change the world we do have the power to change our minds — our attitudes and even our behaviors toward others.
Giving all children the same opportunities to be safe and secure and living side by side without fear are worthy goals; they come from the battleground and should not be seen as impossible dreams. To achieve them requires diplomacy — an invaluable tool for resolving conflicts. Diplomacy means talking together, giving and taking, settling for less — but in the end gaining more if peace is achieved.
Publication Date: August 11, 2014