The Salt Lake Tribune
Good Will--The Solution for Peace in the Middle East!
By Ruth Oron, Zvia Ratz, Harriet Bernstein, Zehava Fishman,
Avi Gvili, Rose Levy, Mazal Gvili, Lilo Gvili
Like many Israelis, we are anguished and furious about the ongoing bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians. In these weeks as more than a hundred and fifty people have been killed and thousands of people wounded, many of them children, it is clear that ultimatums, tanks, and terror are not the solution for peace.
As people who grew up in Tel-Aviv, Bat-Yam, Ramat Hashofet, Hadera, and Kiryat Ono, we want every person in the Mideast and the world to know what we have learned -- the only thing that will stop war is the study of good will, as taught by Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by the great American philosopher, Eli Siegel.
We, the Jews, who endured the Holocaust and longed for centuries for a homeland, should be the first people to want to understand the pain of others. We deeply regret that we did not want to see what the Palestinian people feel about the beautiful land we share, with its historic and religious meaning. "The desire to understand a person different from us," Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism explains, "is the most necessary thing in the world; without it, there will be no peace and safety."
Every nation, as every person, we have learned, will try to take care of itself either by wanting to understand people "different from us" or by having contempt -- "the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it." "As soon as you have contempt," Mr. Siegel wrote, "as soon as you don't want to see another person as having the fulness that you have, you can rob that person, hurt that person, kill that person" (James and the Children, Definition Press).
It was contempt for the feeling Palestinians have about their holy places that was behind the blatant ill will of Ariel Sharon, who, fortressed by Israeli soldiers, went to the Temple Mount -- which is also the Muslim holy shrine Al-Haram al-Sharif -- with the intent of inciting violence and sabotaging the peace talks. It was contempt that had the Palestinians desecrate Jewish holy sites, and slay two Israeli soldiers. Contempt -- the absence of good will -- has put the region perilously at the brink of war.
Good will is urgently needed to stop this vicious cycle of contempt. In a recent Aesthetic Realism class Ms. Reiss said: "There is enough hurt to both Palestinians and Israelis. [Each has] reason to scream: 'I've been hurt! I've been hurt!'" And she asked this crucial question: "What should you do when you feel hurt? Negotiation is better than battling, but negotiation is not the same as good will -- and criticizing contempt. People have to feel that other people are trying to see them as real."
Some of us served in the Israeli Army. None of us saw the Arab people as real, with feelings as deep as our own. We saw them as less human than ourselves. This changed when, in 1982, at the time of the war in Lebanon, we did this vital Aesthetic Realism assignment which is a first step in seeing what another person feels: to write a 500-word soliloquy about a person in an opposing nation. We wrote on: "What does a Palestinian person feel to himself? What are his hopes, what are his fears?" One of us wrote about a father unable to work because of roadblocks, thinking about his hungry child.
Another wrote about a mother terrified her son might be killed; others wrote about a young woman hoping for love, confused about the man she cares for; about a Lebanese child frightened by bombs falling near him, and more. Seeing depth of feeling in people whom we saw as our enemies changed the hate and fear we felt into a desire to be just -- as we never dreamed it could.
We say passionately what each of us sees as true with our critical mind and every fiber of our being: for the horrible fighting to stop, we, the Jews and the Arabs, need to write the 500-word soliloquy about each other and then, this urgent and practical proposal suggested by Ellen Reiss in the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, should be implemented: "Every day, on Israeli and Palestinian radio and television stations, these soliloquies will be read, ten of them each day.... Persons in government, too, will write them. There will likely still be some persons viciously angry on both sides, but they will not be able to get the adherents they now can get. People will see others as real at last, real as oneself, and will feel others are seeing them as real. And you cannot hurt a person whom you see as having feelings like your own."
In 1982 some of us described the life-changing effect of writing a soliloquy in an Open Letter to the Israeli Parliament. It was not taken up, and brutality continued. In 1988, another letter was sent to members of the Knesset imploring them to implement the writing of this soliloquy and begin the study of good will. Because it was not done then, bloodshed goes on. In the year 2000, we say -- it must be done now for enduring peace to be in our dear land!
The Aesthetic Realism Foundation is a not-for-profit educational foundation in New York, 212-777-4490, www.AestheticRealism.org.
This article has been published in many newspapers and websites in the United States and in Israel.