Meanwhile at the Peace Team, things get complicated
The harsh realities of the events of the weekend and this mess have awoken intense thoughts, fears and other emotions in me. Riding the bus to our first Israeli Jewish players dialogue forum at the Peres Center for Peace, I look up at the cloudy sky and I all I see is gray. Just then, the rain ceases for a moment. A gap in the clouds sheds a streak of sunlight. The light of this magnificent golden element has caught the corner of a cloud on its way down to the earth. Deep gray darkness surrounds this ray of warmth. However, the clouds keep coming and show no sign of relenting.
The Peace Team is now gathering some momentum and I think we are starting to get to some of these players. There is plenty of work ahead and the weakness of our skills has become a significant factor. There is a concern that the Israeli Jews and the Israeli Muslims who train together have more frequent access to Australian ex-pats, and as a result, a higher level of coaching than the rest of the Muslim players who are not allowed through checkpoints on a frequent basis. This may result in having an unbalanced team in skill level and knowledge of the game, but we are pushing for different solutions, about which I may expand on in future articles.
The questions I ask myself vary from day to day and week to week. I find myself trying to stay away from using phrases like “Palestine” or “Palestinians” as the name of a formal state or nationality that my teammates want, simply because I do not know if I agree with the implications of using them. I am not actually sure why. Not because I disagree that they should have the same freedoms I do, but because I am Jew before I am Israeli. I believe that the borders of the promised holy land, as given by G-d to the forefather of Judaism (and Islam) Abraham, covers a certain surface space on this planet we call Earth, also created for us by G-d. There are people on this planet that want to restrict Jewish access to it, and to exercise complete control over it.
Maybe it is because I am not happy about the fact they want to take it away from me.
I care about these people as I care about all of G-d’s creatures on Earth. To me, the logic stands that Judaism does not stop or oppress any other religion from being practiced. (I disagree with extreme views of any religion).
The questions keep rolling. Does he even care that, even within the context of the checkpoints, Muslims have democratic freedoms almost unheard of in the Muslim world? Does he think about the fact that an Israeli Jew would never have the same freedoms in most Muslim villages that some of his cousins and friends have in any Israeli city?
If the reality of the situation was reversed, would I be able to be a practicing religious Jew in “Palestine?” I do not ask this question with any kind of cynicism; I just sincerely do not know. The reality of Jews living in Arab or Muslimgoverned countries in the past comes up, but that is not to say that this is how things could be in the future. So many questions, concerns and anxieties.
Saturday night hit me like a bombshell. Amongst the anger, frustration and sadness I felt as my heart ached from hearing the devastating tragedy of five family members murdered in Itamar, I found myself oddly curious. What would he be thinking? Would his grandmother who lives in Gaza be part of the festivities handing out sweets? What would he be thinking in his heart of hearts when he sees me? Does any part of him wish all the Jews went the same way? Or does he wish the Jews would just all leave? Will I try and hit harder at training? Will I feel any less comfortable getting a ride home with my teammates from East Jerusalem? Knowing my friends the way I do, I doubt that any part of them was anything but shocked and disgusted by the weekend’s tragedy. I wonder what kind of thoughts it may spark towards how they live their lives and the stories they will tell about meeting me, and about our future together.
It seems to me like some of the factors involved in this reality are similar to those two people face in a relationship. Trust, communication, honesty and safety – these are all parts of a functioning and healthy relationship, and so much more deeply if it is to grow and be everlasting.
What would it take for both sides to put down their weapons and be honest and open with one another? What would it take for either side to feel safe?
I trust my teammates and I know that we all need to use communication to play as a team and compete; I just hope the sunlight in between those clouds can spread so we can all come out and play a fair game!
Danny Brill is an oleh from Melbourne, living in Jerusalem, who was Assistant Coach/player in the first Peres Peace Team, in 2008.
This is the second in a series of blog entries, written by Danny Brill, about the Peres Peace Team’s participation in the International Cup. This articles was originally published here on the Teaching Israel blog.
The International Cup 2011 (IC11) will be played in both Sydney and Melbourne from Friday, August 12 to Saturday, August 27, 2011.