I have always been terribly moved by the signs that some Israelis and Palestinians carry at nonviolent demonstrations against the occupation which read: “Israelis and Palestinians refuse to be enemies.” The power of this statement is in the recognition that there is a choice to be made. Instead of staying in the entrenched narrative, which might lead to winners or losers—at least temporarily—but will never lead to peace, they chose to change the narrative itself.
Nonviolence is about putting pressure on change points, forcing oppression out into the open, or forcing the agent of oppression (the State, the police, etc.) to choose between good and evil. Nonviolence is also about changing the narrative. Nonviolent resistance, as Martin Luther King taught us, focusses the struggle on good and evil, on right and wrong, rather than on black and white or Jew and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian.
The Israelis and Palestinians who “refuse to be enemies” refuse the narratives that are supposed to be written into their DNA.
How does one educate to this? How does one instill in one’s children, the next generation of Jewish and Moslem young adults, that they do not have to be enemies?
So, now I get to brag a bit on my daughter.
For the past eight months or so my daughter has been part of a group of Muslims and Jews called MAJIC—Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change (major kudos to Rabbi Sarah Bassin and Soha Yassine who advised and led the council). During the first half of the program (which met every three weeks) the high school age students taught and learned about Judaism and Islam. They then chose to do a social service program together, in which they would jointly educate and raise awareness about a pressing issue. They were free to choose any issue they wanted to. They chose hunger.
In that choice they reframed the accepted narrative so that Jews and Muslims were allied in the struggle against food deserts. They learned that they were not enemies, but rather allies in the fight to create a better and more just world.
Yesterday, the last day of the program, there were speeches, and certificates and a carnival that my daughter and her friends had worked hard to organize. The payoff was none of these, but rather the smiles and tears and hugs goodbye when the program was over and the kids took leave of each other.
The quotidian pedagogy of this complicated interaction was merely enabling the normal social interaction of sixteen high school kids. In a small part of this planet, the arc of history bent slightly more towards justice.