The following essay was written by a very dear friend. She has been involved in solidarity work involving Palestinians and Israelis for many years…. she speaks from the heart.


Choose life!
by Deb Reich
Abu Ghosh, Israel/Palestine

Most people will say I’m delusional; that’s okay. I will say what I have to say anyway. When your opinion is way out on the periphery, it may mean you are delusional – or it may just mean that the so-called center has gradually drifted closer and closer to a very high cliff, and finally fallen off the edge, while the majority of the population follows along like a horde of doomed lemmings. In that scenario, someone needs to stake out a position at the other extreme and drag the locus of the center back from oblivion. So here goes.

After this futile, criminal, pornographic war in Gaza (Shmuel Amir rightly termed it a “hunt” rather than a war) and yet another national election in Israel ending basically in impasse, but this time with a distinctly fascist motif, we are no closer to sustainable peace in the Middle East. We need a drastic revisioning of what we are doing here.

So we start with this: Speaking as an Israeli Jew, I say that we (Israeli Jews and our friends abroad) ought to embrace EVERYONE who wants to live here among us, so long as they truly love the land and have some reasonable claim to it. This would not include, say, tourists from Zanzibar or Antarctica – but would naturally include the Palestinians, whose claim to the land is (or ought to be) beyond dispute and whose deep and enduring love for the land is richly evident to any observer not in a vegetative state.

I say we bring all the long-suffering, besieged, shell-shocked Gazans home to Israel now! They miss their homes. They want to come home. Let us welcome them! We can all move over a little bit and make room. Believe me, there is still plenty of room.

Dayenu! (Enough!). Enough suffering inflicted on the surviving families in Gaza who are hungry, thirsty, cold, frightened, wounded, traumatized for life, and bereaved. Enough. And enough suffering on the other side of the fence in Sderot and environs, too. (Their fates are inextricably intertwined; all our fates are inextricably intertwined.)

The generals and the militants have had their day, for the nth time – and at the end of it, as usual, all that we (any of us) have now, as a result, is war crimes and grief. War crimes and grief and fear. War crimes, grief, fear, hatred, and despair… with thousands of injured and disabled people bearing the burden most directly, forever.

Enough! Israelis are more afraid now than before, and more at risk, too. Time to ABANDON this insane strategy that we (any of us) can force people to love us, or anyhow accept us, by killing them!

Let us in Israel who have so much, open our homes and our communities to the victims of this insane war who have so little – exactly as we once opened our homes to refugees from northern Israel when the Katyushas were falling. Our traditional ethos is full of charity and generosity; we know all about providing refuge and succour; we have taken in wave after wave of refugees over the decades, most recently more than a million Russian émigrés deemed essential to our future, for whom we moved over and made room.

So let’s get going. Let every family in Israel who wants to live in peace in this region, open their home to a Gaza family until new housing can be built. Let the participating families declare a hudna between themselves. Now. Today.

You start by not picturing these neighbors as “the enemy”; picture them instead as families who have suffered a tsunami like the one that flattened coastal Indonesia a few years ago – and in fact, the order of magnitude of what they have been through is about the same. Presto! Reaching out to help suddenly makes perfect sense. Moreover, professional planners have already minutely addressed the question of exactly where Palestinians coming home to Israel could reside, eager to make their best contribution to a shared future. What is missing in Israel is not sufficient space, but sufficient imagination to envision how much there is to be gained by all concerned. Now is a good time to change that.

The Gaza disaster can become the turning point. Let the Gazan expatriates whose families came from Ashdod (Issdod) be matched with Ashdod-area families. Let the expatriates from Lod (Lydd) be matched with Lod/Lydd-area families – Jewish or Palestinian. And so forth. And let no time be lost! They have lost everything and their situation is dire. We in Israel have lost our moral compass and we want to reclaim it. Bingo!

Let the governments of the world, led by the USA, immediately stop sending Israel aid for military ordnance, and earmark it instead for a massive rehabilitation and reconciliation program.

Let all the tens of thousands of Palestinian professionals who are citizens of Israel, born and raised here – doctors, social workers, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, lawyers, engineers, teachers, designers, journalists – join gladly and wholeheartedly in this effort, finally and at long last, to bring their fellow Palestinians home from exile in Gaza. Let us bind up the wounds and become whole, together. All of us. Let us build a really wonderful society together, for the sake of ALL OUR CHILDREN. Rewrite the national anthem! Why not? It’s a SONG, folks. No song is holier than the life of even one child (anyone’s child).

The Gaza families who actually lived in Gaza before 1948 will want to stay and rebuild their homes and communities. Volunteers would doubtless throng to Gaza from all over the world to help them. Imagine them turning what was the world’s largest open-air prison into the world’s largest open-air Reconciliation Park – with facilities for tourism, education, environmental studies, cultural attractions, and museums (including a Palestinian Nakba Museum). Imagine Gaza as the reconciliation capital of the world – people in Israel could commute to work in Gaza for a change, instead of the other way around. Very refreshing.

This is a blueprint for a SHARED LIFE. If it sounds crazy, just ask yourself: Which is crazier — rampant slaughter, or rampant cooperation? Rivers of blood, or the free flow of joint prosperity? Rampant mass cooperation could break out here tomorrow – and in a week or two, or maybe a month or two, we would feel like we have always believed in it.

A political accommodation would follow the humanitarian one – probably some creative form of federation, with complete, reciprocal, national-cultural autonomy based on each group’s granting the other group the same perks it wants for itself. The technical restructuring follows the vision, not the other way around. There are several good plans, already fully elaborated, for political power-sharing here. Anyone can read them; they’re on the web. Once we dare to envision a shared future, we can make it happen. And if not now, when?

We Jews consider it rational and wonderful to rejoice in our emergence as a modern nation in the ancient homeland, after… not twenty years, not two hundred years, but two thousand years of exile!! Yet the idea of repatriating all those homesick Palestinian families, exiled from their homes a mere 60 years ago, is considered delusional. Something there does not compute.

So think it over and let’s put the guns away for good. Let the tribunals meet to apportion blame and responsibility, by all means, but as for the rest of us: we have other tasks. Treat the wounded, yes, of course, and heal the traumatized… And beat the swords into ploughshares and recycle the tank parts into computer equipment. Retool the death factories to make swimsuits instead of parachutes, irrigation pipes for farmers instead of M16 rifles. No time for missiles; we’ll all be too busy getting a life. The only phosphorous I ever want to see around here again is in a spelling contest for the kids (ALL our kids). Haul out the welcome mat for the long-lost cousins and let’s get busy – there’s a lot of work to do here. It’s not too late, even now, but first you have to take the first step: Choose life!!!


  1. February 17, 2009 at 16:45

    […] Tim wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptNo time for missiles; we’ll all be too busy getting a life. The only phosphorous I ever want to see around here again is in a spelling contest for the kids (ALL our kids). Haul out the welcome mat for the long-lost cousins and let’s get … […]

  2. Nadine said,

    February 17, 2009 at 19:32

    What a touching essay; she really brought hope back into my heart.

  3. pam said,

    February 17, 2009 at 19:57

    This sounds good but may be too difficult to put into action. How about a cessation of– bombing and indiscriminate arrests and expanded settlements and humiliation at checkpoints. Palestinians may view your charity as yet another form of humiliation. The best idea is to hold a referendum amongst all palestinians in the entire region on what THEY want. Not “loaded” “Yes ” or “No” options- but a genuine attempt to gauge how they feel about things.

  4. Heretic said,

    February 17, 2009 at 20:46

    Absolutely Brilliant! One Land for everyone. I cannot wait for the BIG PARTY.

  5. llyn said,

    February 17, 2009 at 22:36

    I believe she is right – only the people of Israel and Palestine can make the change. Leaders of Israel (in particular) and quasi-leaders of the Palestinians are in no position to make any movements towards peace – they are too busy with outmoded ideologies on both sides and with both sides having leaders who seem to think they “have a right to rule – Fatah/Abbas) In Israel it seems there are almost family dynasties who rule and are only interested in their own egos, wealth, power.
    I have always believed in a one state solution and I do not think it matters what the country is called – the national anthem “The Hope” can be changed a little but what a beautiful anthem for all it would become for the entire Holy Land. The fact that this land was peaceful for so many centuries when Jews, Christians, Muslims and so many other offshoots of these three Abrahamic religions lived in here is testiment enough to ensure that we need no outside european zionist ideology or any resistant movement that was born of the need to resist zionism for us all to live together.
    If European Jews can try to understand that if they are truly Jews and want to live here because this is where they believe their people first became a religion then they have to realize that they are not European but Middle Eastern and also not that Palestinians are not uneducated nor are they unsophisticated. Before 1948 they were far ahead of Jews when it came to the number of educated and post-grads per capita. As for their homes, they were to be desired by most people. I remember them well as being, clean, so clean, the ladies of the homes always embroidering for the homes and dowries. I never saw a soiled white veil worn by a Palestinian lady or girl or a dirty Palestinian child. In the cities Palestinian men, women and children were dressed in the western way most of the time and were always very well groomed and always so polite – two things noticeable in all Arab countries and also Iran (my mother is Iranian Jewish). I believe Israelis would be pleasantly surprised if they could just “let go of their fear of their never ending Governments” practice of keeping you paranoid.
    All Palestinians want is to go home or as close to it as possible. They accept you have part of theirs but Jewish people know that in their hearts Zionist Ideology is cruel and will not end in any kind of peacel. But the people of both sides can decide themselves to make peace after all, do you realize that apart from the Ashkenazi, your DNA is identical with that of the Palestinian people.

  6. Salah said,

    February 18, 2009 at 09:17

    I cannot believe what I have just read. Are there Israelies who think this way??!! As a Palestinian refugee, all I have seen is the other side of the picture. We have seen Jews who want nothing but uproot us, kill as many Palestinians as possible. Nobody imagines how ruthless those Israeli military can be. They have killed thousands of innocent Palestinians- The carnage is on-going. It is our destiny to die at the hands of these people ………. but it is our destiny to fight back……..

  7. bARABie said,

    February 28, 2009 at 22:43

    Oh GREAT, the thief who broke into my home, raped my wife and kids, imprisoned and tortured me and my kids and is still illegally occupying my home is now asking me to share my home with IT!

    The incredulity of jewish “thinking” is beyond words.

  8. bARABie said,

    February 28, 2009 at 22:48

    The following is especially to nadine (my guess is she is a bimbo)

    “After the creation of the State of Israel on the ruins of Arab-Palestinian society, the fledgling state began absorbing thousands of new Jewish immigrants from around the world, masses of immigrants whom the state was not fully able to absorb. The state resolved this lack of capacity by distributing the homes of refugee and internally displaced Palestinians to the new immigrants. After all the Palestinian homes in Jaffa had been occupied, Israeli housing authorities began dividing the homes in the Ajami ghetto into apartments so as to provide housing for Jewish families. As such, an Arab family in Ajami, who had been displaced from their original home, and whose family and friends had been expelled, and who lived in a house with four rooms, for example, would have their new home divided into four apartments to absorb three Jewish immigrant families, and the four families would share the kitchen and bathroom.

    This process was one of the most difficult for the Palestinian families; they were forced into “co-habitation” with the people who had expelled them and, considering that many of the Jewish families included members who were serving in the army, people who were directly carrying out the ongoing violence suffered by the remaining Palestinian community. “

  9. bARABie said,

    February 28, 2009 at 22:52

    “Nobody imagines how ruthless those Israeli military can be.”

    I will go further than that and say, nobody imagines how ruthless those israhellis are and their supporters worldwide (you know who you are).

  10. bARABie said,

    February 28, 2009 at 22:56

    “Leaders of Israel (in particular) and quasi-leaders of the Palestinians ”

    Question Ilyn, why are the Palestinian leaders “quasi-leaders” while the israhellis are just “leaders”????

    Your racism couldn’t help itself, could it?

  11. bARABie said,

    February 28, 2009 at 22:57

    Pam and Salah, well said both of you. Bravo.

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