More than ten years ago, I went on safari in Uganda. Images of this experience stayed at the front of my mind; there was a giraffe, an elephant and its calf, a kind of monkey and a crocodile, side by side at the edge of a trough, drinking together. It was the first time I was in nature and really understood: animals only kill each other to survive. Why wasn’t the crocodile interested in eating any of the other animals? Because he was thirsty, and only there to drink. He wasn’t going to kill for no reason.
People have told me for many years that I am a very strong and opinionated person. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I don’t try to persuade others of my point of view and I respect other people’s opinions. I’m vegan, but not the kind of vegan who doesn’t sit at a table with people who eat meat. Everyone has to make their own decisions in life. However, it is incredible to me that people who keep dogs or cats or rabbits as pets consider it perfectly legitimate to eat animals, and yet they would never think of eating their pet. I also find it disturbing that people who are ready to eat meat are often not ready to kill it themselves. And above all, the ignorance of how we treat our animals really upsets me. It’s not like we don’t have the whole internet to do our research.
But live and let live. It took me many years to learn to stay calm and remember that I only live in my head, and I have to accept that everyone lives in theirs.
Not everyone believes in animal rights, perhaps forgetting that we are animals too.
And yet, some fundamental principles are indisputable. I’m talking about human rights. I’m talking about shared values of equality and respect. The rights to dignity and equity. In fact, I’m talking about Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948:
The State of Israel will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace…it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants without distinction of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…
A few weeks ago I had a sudden awakening. I was at a meeting of my sharing group, and one of my friends shared how she first hugged her daughter’s Israeli Arab childminder and realized she really loved her . But she was so surprised. He was the first Arab she had met who she had befriended, and she had always been taught that the Arabs were bad and that they wanted to kill all the Jews… That, by the way , came from his Jewish and religious upbringing in England. .
Since I moved here almost two years ago, people have often told me that there are Jews who hate all Arabs and Arabs who hate all Jews, but I didn’t believe it all just not. How could I live in the North? Our Arab friends come to our house for dinner, we go to their house for tea, we go to musical events and organize peace demonstrations together. The Arab Israelis here have sometimes welcomed and accepted me more warmly than the Jewish Israelis. I don’t even feel the need to say Jewish this, Arab that. We are all Israelis. And if some people would like to go and live in a Palestinian state, that’s fine too. We will also visit our friends!
This is all very obvious to me. When you treat another human being like a human being, when you befriend them and respect them, there is not a single moment when you would even think of killing them.
But my friend at work tells me, “I read your blogs; they are well written, but you are just discovering this country. You are really very naive.
Interesting point of view. Indeed, I have barely discovered this country. But I have studied human nature and the nature of good and evil since I was old enough to read. I studied Holocaust literature in college, as well as Freudian theory. In fact, I have never stopped studying human nature, having been a professor of English literature for over twenty years.
This all seems obvious to me. Let’s boil it down to a fruit store. What if all the carrots were sold in one store, the tomatoes in another, the oranges in another, and so on. Well, besides being very annoying for people who wanted to buy all kinds of different fruits and vegetables and had to keep going to different stores, there is something much more basic here. If you only go to one store, you will only know one type of fruit. Say, tomatoes. Then, one day, if you ever see a grapefruit, you might be very scared of it. You could run away from it. You could eat it with its skin on and think it was disgusting and never go back to that store.
Why am I talking about fruit shops? I lived in Shropshire, England for ten years. We were one in two Jewish families in the entire county; we constituted fifty percent of its Jewish population. In Shropshire there are three hundred and nineteen thousand one hundred and eighty-nine people. American Jews were therefore 0.002%. Many of them had never met a Jew. But oh yes, they had heard all the stereotypes: big noses, bad guys with money, rich, to name a few. I spent many good years teaching the students and teachers I met what it really means to be Jewish. And it always surprised them that I didn’t have a big nose at all.
Where am I going with this? After all, now I live in a Jewish country where I am no longer the minority, so I can relax, right?
Last night I went to a shared society political meeting in a nearby kibbutz which again broke my heart (this has happened a lot lately, especially with the recent death of the four-year-old boy in Bir Al- Maksur). Jews and Arabs sat together to discuss how we can create a shared, equal, violence-free society based on respect and friendship for each other.
One of the politicians even told us how, when he asked the Knesset, what about all the illegal buildings that Arabs are forced to build because they don’t have permission to build, the answer was, “Why do you worry about the Arabs?
My husband replied, “If someone had said that in England – why do you care about Pakis/blacks/Jews etc.? ? – they would have lost their jobs, never been allowed to work in politics again and probably prosecuted. But that was only at the beginning of the meeting. What the panel had gathered to talk about was their new bilingual kibbutz kindergarten and their new Arab-Jewish Mechina (the pre-military year course students can choose to take after the high school).
“These are the solutions,” they said excitedly, and everyone nodded and clapped. And I’m sitting here thinking, are you serious? Thinking of changing the world with these “new and innovative” ideas? They are absolutely FUNDAMENTAL for EVERY society, every community, every country, every city, every village, everywhere!
Of course, the answer is, from the beginning of a child’s life, make sure they are with other human beings, different human beings, without distinction of religion, race or sex. Why is this such a new idea? Why do politicians have to go around and spread this idea as if it were a new invention for harmony in Israel? It was in the Declaration of Independence! It must be absolutely and totally the very first foundation of our society.
If our children learn, work, play and eat together, speak Hebrew and Arabic together, if they then start to read, write and discuss together, study together for registration, go to Mechina and serve the countries together, then Israel will end up, and magnificently, keeping the promises it made when it was created.
Yes, I am obviously naive. But it seems so clear to me, the solution to all of this.
We are human beings with basic human rights. It is time for each of us to remember this.
Let’s do it again, and do it right this time.