A quick glance at the news is enough to make your stomach turn.
Today over 20 Iraqis were massacred by their government. Hezbollah thugs attacked peaceful protestors in Beirut. Donald Trump continues to abandon Kurdish allies to Turkish aggression in northern Syria. Settlers attacked IDF soldiers in the West Bank.
And yet there are rays of hope. The protestors in Beirut, in particular, inspire me. Fed up with ineffective government, they have put aside their (numerous and strong) sectarian affiliations to push for a clean house. Sunnis are protesting Sunni politicians. Shiiites, Shiites. Christians, Christian leaders. The rallying cry of these protestors is beautiful: “kullun ya3ni kullun”. All of them means all of them. Meaning not a single politician is being spared the anger of these idealistic protestors. People brave enough to speak out as the country experiences a severe economic crisis and in a place where politicians don’t take kindly to criticism. A place that has known Civil War.
They are a role model for what we should all be doing. Instead of engaging in ceaseless blaming of one group against another, we should realize that the people up top enjoy this conflict. While we tear each other to shreds because we pray or speak or look differently, our basic needs go unmet. Patients die because of lack of care, trash goes uncollected, jobs become more scarce, and the rent continues to skyrocket as if none of it was happening at all.
It’s time to unite against the few who control our fate and yet care so little about it. Israel could learn a lot from the Lebanese protests, especially as Benny Gantz is now charged with trying to form a government. If he doesn’t, we will see a third round of elections in a country already fed up with voting over and over again.
Much like its neighbor to the north, Israel’s political parties are almost entirely divided by ethnicity and sect. There’s the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox, the Ashkenazi ones, the secular left, the secular center, the secular center-right, the modern Orthodox, the Russians, and the Arabs. In Lebanon, the names are different, but the concept the same. A gaggle of Christian sects, Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze jockey for power based on group labels. An entire bloody civil war was fought over it. It’s depressing.
And yet there is this ray of hope coming from the north that sometimes people can put aside their partisan and sectarian labels and come together for the common good. My hope is one day Israelis will be able to do the same, as they briefly did when they protested against rising house prices. Perhaps the most salient issue in Israel today, yet one repeatedly shunted aside in favor of endless ethnic conflict both within and externally.
This is not easy. But my hope is that the fervor gripping young Lebanese people can inspire Israelis to follow suit. Only by putting human interests first will we be able to make the difference we need to see in the world. And perhaps one day, God willing, we’ll see Lebanese and Israelis joining together in protesting for justice. In one straight line from Beirut to Tel Aviv, like the British colonial trains used to run. If you will it, it is not a dream.