An online news service carried an interesting sidebar the other day under a story on the latest in the clash between the Israeli army and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
A campaign had begun proclaiming that Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies. Photos helped tell some of the stories.
Couples made up of a Jewish man and an Arab woman, or a Jewish woman and an Arab man proclaimed their love for each other. Male friends — and women — proclaimed their friendship. These are people who had come to value cross-cultural friendship and — in some cases — had chosen to fall in love with each other and marry.
The fact is that the supposed hatred between the descendants of Isaac and the offspring of Ishmael — all descendants of the biblical patriarch Abraham — is not universal, according to many of Israeli background and many Arabs.
Anyone who has ever visited Israel knows that the majority of inhabitants — Israelis and Arabs — do co-exist in the little nation of Israel. True, some areas tend to be more Jewish and others more Arab, but the choice is to live in close proximity and to do it with limited rancor.
This does not minimize the differences between the groups, including their passions and prejudices. Israelis and Arabs in the nation could argue that on various issues, co-existing is hardly ideal. If given an open forum, many of these Arabs would confess to feeling like secondary citizens in Israel. Israelis have their own complaints about their neighbors.
Still, many — perhaps most — would deplore the violence evident in the exchange of missiles and rockets between Israel and Gaza. Neither Arabs nor Jews want to see Israeli citizens or Israeli Defense Forces troops injured or killed. Surely most Israelis are anxious about the increasing death toll in Gaza in which Palestinian men, women and children have been seriously wounded or have perished.
Outsiders have come to believe that Jews and Arabs hating each other is the norm and will never change. But it is time for the leaders of both sides to engage in a serious cease-fire and perhaps choose a course different than the inevitable conflict.
Ending the conflict may come because longstanding enemies in sufficient numbers stand up and simply refuse to be and to act that way. Obviously, some are already doing so. If some level of mutual respect and civility can happen in the “holy land,” perhaps it can happen in other places across the world where the hatred and violence is more intense and widespread.