Rest in peace, Shimon Peres

And peace is the operative word here as he fought for it in the Middle East for many years…

shimon-peres

He wasn’t always like that, he began his career as a hardliner, was known as a ‘hawk’ who later changed his ideas and became a peacemaker, a ‘dove’ so to speak. His ideas on peace for the Middle East, the Oslo Accords he helped achieve, gave me such hope in the mid 1990s! He won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords…

peres-nobel
The Nobel Peace prize laureates for 1994 in Oslo: PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Sadly, the peace I had so hoped for never really happened… Things went haywire after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and with Netanyahu as president then and again now, all real peace endeavors seem to be vaporized. I have lived in Israel and the fact that the peace process is stuck after the hope there was 20 years ago still breaks my heart.

I have been watching Peres’s funeral on TV here this morning and Bill Clinton’s  and Barack Obama’s speeches were very powerful to me. Like them, I still hope for such dreamers as Shimon Peres to stand up in the Middle East and make the dreams for peace come true.

Shimon Peres, alav ha-shalom (peace be upon him). And may peace be upon the whole region hopefully one day.

Walls be gone…

Richard Armitage’s recent #nowalls tweet made me very happy as I have very strong anti-wall sentiments myself! It also made me think of my own wall experiences. (Posting a screencap here, in case the tweet gets deleted sometime in the future).

RA No walls tweet

I lived in Germany for the first half of my teens when the wall was still very much there and very much a part of German life. When I was 14 or 15 we went on a class trip to Eschwege (in the north-east of the province of Hessen)  and close to Eschwege was a portion of the border between the two Germanies. We visited the border there which was also a wall. It was my first confrontation with such a physical border, it was made of concrete slabs and it impressed me, not in a good way. It felt weird that behind that wall was a very different way of life and that people were forcefully separated from each other.

My next experience with the actual physical wall was when I was 19 and I went to Berlin. It was the summer of 1989, the summer before the wall fell. On that trip we visited East Berlin for a few hours on a special visa, we had our own guide and were not permitted to talk to anyone in the East. It was very surreal. No one that August would have believed that only a few months later the wall would actually fall! It was a huge event!

I also visited Berlin for a weekend just a week or two after the wall fell. What I most recall is walking through a huge department store in West Berlin. The store was jam-packed, if you wanted to walk you had to literally squeeze past people, and despite it being packed it was dead quiet in the store. These were all people from the East, coming to take a look in the West, gawking at everything that was available (but not yet affordable) in West German stores. I think it was one of the most eery experiences in my life. And it was the most miraculous feeling that this wall had finally finally come down, reuniting families and friends and allowing people to meet each other in freedom!

4 years ago I visited Berlin again, this time with my husband and kids. The wall is history now and is gone but you can visit parts that have been kept as memorial.

It’s a chilling reminder… the wall has caused so much sorrow and at the spot where these pictures were taken you can read all about it and see videos. It really helped explain the wall to the kids. It also makes you wish that never again will people think to build walls like that again…

But alas, these walls do exist and have been built in recent times too! The most prevalent one for me is on the Israeli-Palestinian border and that wall just breaks my heart. I hate it! Nowadays when you travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (on the West Bank) you have to go through checkpoints and you have to pass a wall that is very reminiscent of the Berlin Wall! I have this childhood memory, from way before the wall existed, of going to church on Sunday in Jerusalem. Afterwards we’d drive to Bethlehem and in Manger Square (where the Church of the Nativity is situated) we’d go for a falafel lunch before heading home again. I used to love that little family tradition but nowadays it is far less easy to do that, with the whole wall errected separating the two cities.

Luckily in the West Bank you can talk to anyone you like (unlike when I visited East Berlin in 1989) but the wall gives a real sense of being in a huge prison. I can travel freely enough between Israel and the West Bank with my Dutch passport but many Palestinians can’t. Heck, my cats have travelled more than many Palestinians! I can tell you here and now, walls such as these are not a solution, they never will be… They divide and alienate and breed distrust and inequality and they imprison. They do not ensure freedom, they restrict freedom…So yes, with all my heart I can agree with the #nowalls sentiment and hope that in the future walls will be torn down rather than be built.

A message of peace and building a future

I just listened to an amazing speech… I can’t say much more about this, other than that this is possibly the best speech I have ever heard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Agreed, it’s from the Israeli “side” but with a little twist: it was spoken by an Israeli diplomat of Palestinian descent named George Deek. I think he had some very powerful things to say, the speech touched me to the very core……

To quote from the end of this speech:

“We cannot change the past, but we can secure a future for our next generations. And if we want to mend the past some day, we can help Palestinian refugees have a normal life. We can be sincere about our past and learn from our mistakes. And we can unite Muslims, Jews and Christians to protect our right to be different and by that preserve our humanity.”

Here is a 30 minute video of the speech, very much worth the listen. Please do, if you care about peace in the Middle East.  Even if you don’t agree, if you listen to it seriously it at the very least will give food for thought.

For some reason I can’t embed the video, so here’s a still of George Deek from the video and a link to the video itself:

Let us move forward and learn to live together and build a FUTURE!

Love is the answer

I so very much believe in love and diversity and tolerance and allowing people to live according to their own beliefs and ideologies without encroaching on the beliefs and ideologies of others. There is so much hatred and conflict in the world today and so much prejudice festers… My own focus is on what is going on in the Middle East in Israel/Palestine (as I have lived in Jerusalem) and now this whole awful IS (Islamic State murdering journalists) situation has emerged.

Where is tolerance? Doesn’t religion teach us to love? And even if you have no religion, isn’t the only way to real survival and happiness love? In the awfulness of today’s world I hope that people can start to rise up and break through all the awfulness and hatred and prejudice and actually truly love. I feel like a naive little ideologist saying this but apparently I am not alone with this feeling…. I am not the only naive ideologist…

Two days ago (September 12th) Richard Armitage did a Twitter Q&A (https://twitter.com/RCArmitage) and of course I loved following it all. However, the answers he gave to two questions especially spoke straightly to my soul:

Question: What aspects of society/culture do you think ‘The Crucible’ best speaks to today?
RA: It speaks of prejudice and persecution and any society who has permitted it’s government…to legislate in favour of such denial of human rights, be it, race, gender, religion, sexual preference and political orientation.

and

Question: What do you hope the audience will be left contemplating after the performance? 
RA: I hope our audience leave with a sense of purpose, duty and responsibility…That they are at one with their mortality and that they believe in love.

His response made me think of this video that I came across a little while ago of two young poets speaking of the animosity between Jews and Muslims, referencing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and trying to beat prejudice:

And then this morning I was alerted to another video, addressing exactly the exasperation I feel about the world today, but there is a message of hope at the end. Oh, if humanity would only listen!

The message of hope in this video I would like to reiterate here:

“But once we truly love we will meet anger with sympathy, hatred with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Love is the most powerful weapon on the face of the earth […] The path towards a new beginning starts within you”.