"From the Place Where We Are Right Flowers will never Grow in the Spring"
The "place where we are right" is barren ground, hard and trampled, where no flowers can grow. It is an idea inside our heads, born of pain and clothed with a sense of certainty.
We can ask how the soil became barren and who did the trampling, but these questions get us only so far. We may stand on the ground for a time, feeling secure in our place. But there will come a time when we want the flowers to grow. We can't help it. There's something inside us - process theologians call it God - that loves flowers.
We'll need to dig past our certainties, listening to other people with stories different from our own, hearing their loves and their doubts. Then it won't matter so much that we are "right" about things. The soil will soften. We'll look for the flowers.
As I write this, there is no sense of flowers that can emerge from the war following October 7 in Israel and Palestine. It is possible that no flowers can grow: that hardened hearts, with divergent senses about being "right" about things, will remain barren and trampled, born of pain. I have no right to declare one side "right" and the other "wrong," although I fully condemn the precipitating circumstances; the brutal assault by Hamas on innocent civilians. And yet, like some Israelis and Palestinians, I hope that, in time, shared bereavement may create space for Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace, even if they do not love each other cannot forgive one other. That living together would be a flower.
I borrow the image of barren soil, and the need to learn from doubt and love, from a poem by the Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, to whom a panelist in the BBC podcast below alludes. The poem is offered below, along with the podcast and videos of Israelis and Palestinians in mutual bereavement.
- Jay McDaniel
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right Flowers will never grow In the spring. The place where we are right Is hard and trampled Like a yard. But doubts and loves Dig up the world Like a mole, a plow. And a whisper will be heard in the place Where the ruined House once stood. Yehuda Amichai (1924 - 2000) was an Israeli poet. He was born in Germany, then immigrated with his family to Palestine in 1936. He fought in the Israeli War of Independence as a young man, but became an advocate of peace and reconciliation in the region, working with Palestinian writers. He was 'discovered' in 1965 by Ted Hughes, who later translated several of Amichai's books. (From the Wikipedia article on Yehuda Amichai.)
How Should We Think about our Enemies?
Released On: 11 Oct 2023, before the Israeli response The surprise attack by Hamas was devastating, leaving hundreds of Israeli civilians dead, injured or taken hostage. Israel’s response was swift, with airstrikes on Gaza killing hundreds of Palestinians, including children.
The scale of the attack was unprecedented, but the cycle of violence and escalation is all too familiar in this land that has been contested for more than a century. Now another generation sees the bloodshed at first hand.
Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, so for many Jews this is about survival. At the same time, many Palestinians have come to see Israel as a brutal oppressor. Each side sees the other as an existential threat. Even those who refuse to define their neighbours across the Gaza border as ‘the enemy’ may find themselves defined in those terms against their will – and threatened with death.
How should we understand conventional rules of morality in such intractable circumstances? What is a proportionate response to an act of aggression? And what conditions are necessary for a realistic peace process to take hold?
Perhaps the most radical statement in all of human history is “love your enemies”. Those who are pessimistic about peace in the Middle East might dismiss that as naïve. But there are some who can give us real-life examples of the human capacity to rise above anger and grief for a greater good.
How should we think about our enemies? With Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, Atef Alshaer, Gabrielle Rifkind, Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin.
Joint Israeli-Palestinian Parents Circle - Families Forum
"The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict. Moreover, the PCFF has concluded that the process of reconciliation between nations is a prerequisite to achieving a sustainable peace. The organization thus utilizes all resources available in education, public meetings and the media, to spread these ideas."