I went out to the Sulha for a few hours yesterday, the Utopian peace fest between Jews and Arabs. It was pretty much as I expected; a bunch of Jews struggling to come to terms with and admit the faults of our side, and a bunch of Arabs struggling to forgive us. After much dialogue and story sharing, it was brought up by several people in a circle of sheiks, rabbis, ex soldiers, ex terrorists and common folk that while we the Jews realize the sins of Israel from this forum, we don’t hear an acknowledgement of the sins from the other side. The answer from the Arabs took a winding path back through the faults of Israel never ended up actually addressing the question. Kind of disheartening.

There was also an ever-present film crew with ever-distracting boom mics constantly lurking as if our only purpose in being there was to prove that we were. The saving grace of the whole thing for me was that I got to spend time with my friend Dede (aka Haviva) and her new husband Yaacov. Dede works for Jews For Judaism and plans to make Aliyah next year to do Peace work.

About the author

Laya Millman


  • wow, I too am very disheartened, if not disappointed, that the Arabs can’t take some responsibility for their part in the mess.

  • i had the same experience last year and have spoken to eliyahu about it extensively. it’ll be easier for the palestinians to admit their culpability when they’re no longer being oppressed. in the mean time, it’s a blight in their eye preventing them from seeing their own faults.

  • Dede & Laya = two people I really like a lot. I’m sorry you had such a disheartening experience Laya, but do you think that events like Sulha are not worth it at all?

  • well bec, it’s better than nothing, i hope. But there’s still a helluva long way to go.

  • You think they’ll be able admit their sins when they’re no longer “oppressed?” Keep dreaming.

  • Uh, and what do we have to ask the arabs forgiveness for? I wonder…Oppressed? We are opressed because OUR people die daily just trying to live our lives. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

  • Ahhh, come on…FUCK THE ARABS ALREADY!!!!! DON’T YOU GET IT? It really is THAT simple….punleeze! Sitting around with a bunch of fucking Arabs trying to make people oh yeah between 12 people…what an utter fucking waste fo time. yuck

  • And in this corner we have the indymedia wingbats…

    ” it’ll be easier for the palestinians to admit their culpability when they’re no longer being oppressed.”

    And in the corner we have the wacky racist zealots:
    “Ahhh, come on…FUCK THE ARABS ALREADY!!!!!”

  • “it’ll be easier for the palestinians to admit their culpability when they’re no longer being oppressed.”

    Why is it that getting blown up by human bombs makes people feel guilty, whereas being abstractly ‘oppressed’ as a result makes people blind and angry.

  • This one of the most pathetic uses of time… I don’t know whats more pathetic the Jews pandering to a bunch of arabs, or the arabs who take no responsibility for their bretherns actions… Oh wait, definitely the Jews. I have an idea all you hippy Jews need to go back to following Phish and dancing around in circles while high on acid, at least then your less embarrassing.

  • “Why is it that getting blown up by human bombs makes people feel guilty, whereas being abstractly ‘oppressed’ as a result makes people blind and angry.”

    i think the will is there, as their attendance clearly indicates. it’s just that their knowledge of history isn’t. either that or their pride just distorts everything. pride is a dangerous animal and it infests them. actions we’d see as abhorrent and seek diplomatic alternatives to, they’d see as justifiable, and consider our diplomacy web of dishonesty and injustice. thus the clash of civilizations ensues.

    finding a bridge between these worldviews and building trusting relationships is the only way to prevent further conflict. that’s what events like sulha try to accomplish, however slowly they progress. at least we’re talking. we weren’t talking like this four years ago.

  • While I endorse any peaceful gathering that aims to bring warring factions together, I must take issue with Mobius’s contention that the Arab participants cant admit guilt until the “oppression” is over.

    Lets just analyze Mobius a bit.

    First, the assumption is that only one side is being oppressed.
    Second, that one’s personal suffering prevents empathy and soul-searching in a public way with one’s perceived oppressor.
    Third, that once in a state of “freedom from oppression” one side that hitherto has renounced their faults will voluntarily admit them.

    These are all untenable positions.

    The entire point of peace and dialogue groups is to admit that both sides are involved in an intractable and oppressive relationship. The perception that somehow the Palestinians are solely the victims is wrong. Both sides are victims. Both sides feel oppressed.

    In fact, one’s personal suffering is the ideal time to have a window into the mind of the other. One has to transcend the personal suffering to see the context of the relationship.

    At what point will the Palestinians feel the oppression has ended, that will enable them to admit wrong? Is this after creation of a two state solution? A single state solution? Is this when Jews are no longer in the region?

    After the genocide of European Jews sixty years ago, Europeans are contemplating the great achievements of the once-despised minority in their midst. In this Virtually Jewish world, where klezmer festivals dot the landscape…Europeans still cannot admit to their faults. Most countries have seen a backlash against admitting fault for the Holocaust. As survey of Europe shows that more people blame others for the Holocaust, than admit collaboration or responsibility.

    Unless Arab/Palestinian culture is different—and based on the ongoing honor killings, widespread Holocaust denial, blood-libeling, demonization of the Jew and the ascension of radical Jihad this seems highly implausible—even a total Arab victory over the Jews will not bring about any “mea culpa,” admission of guilt in a large scale way. That is just not the way human beings react.

    Jews meanwhile have been told for generations that our actions have direct influence on the world and our condition. We bear the guilt from the sins of our ancestors that caused the destruction of the Temples (a timely issue). We recall each year and have canonized in our Holy Books the acts conducted by Jews that were immoral in order to learn from them and do right.

    We have a tradition of empathy because we are even forbidden from rejoicing at the defeat of our enemies.

    We have a tradition of healing because we are told that we should be like Aaron and pursue peace, even at the cost of truth.

    We have a tradition of personal responsibility and accountability—that is what the mitzvoth are.

    So, in conclusion, based on my knowledge of Arab/Palestinian culture, my involvement from 1987-1991 in the student Jewish-Arab peace movement in Israel, my study of culture and of history, and familiarity with the current geo-political climate, I doubt very much that real rapprochement will come about, until there is a paradigm shift in the Palestinian world that replaces the nomads’ sense of justice and Mohammedan view of History.

  • I suspect that the Palestinians will cease to feel oppressed once the Jews are, you know, no longer there. That’s just a feeling I get.

  • Dear Rabbi Yona,

    You present three assumptions as analysis to Mobius’ contention, and proceed to refute those assumptions as untenable, and – I must say – with a didactic flair and brilliance I cannot presume to match.

    However, a little note of consternation does your schpiel evoke, re what seems to be the ongoing stand often taken by our circles.

    It goes something like this: We, who have suffered immensely for thousands of years, have the ‘king of the castle’ position in the landscape of victimhood. No one can match our experience, no one can match our calm and learned response – and anyway, our practice out-performs the natural standards that humanity seem to average. So what is there for us to ponder – why should we look at the mirror?

    If all that you are saying was solid (I am not arguing the possibility in essence, just the symptoms presented on the ground), would the control of the territories in general, and the behaviour of the settlers in particular, come across as ugly, as pitiful, as sub-standard, as wretched and as corrupting as it does? Would the image of religious piety would terrify others as they do?

    Yes, the Palestinians have lots to reckon with, so do the Arabs, the Europeans and practically every human being on the planet. But that is not an excuse for us to rest on our theoretical laurels of just and kind tradition. The reality in the street, for the average non-Jew who lives in our midst or under our roof is that we can be as ruthless, as racist, as sadistic and as ignorant as the kozac next door. And if you think the fact our brothers do not rape and murder(yet; has happened anecdotally) lets us of the hook, think again – the standards have changed. If we want to join the 21st century we have to upgrade our attitudes, and no amount of “oh, but I had it much worse before” could justify blocking a woman in labour on the way to hospital, shooting at children who are going to school, stealing a farmer’s land or beating him up.

    In the current equation of power, we are not the underdog. Period. However many Arabs surround us, and however many suicide bombers attack us, your basic right of existence is not existentially threatened anymore. Yes, it is probably questioned by wishful thinking and proud dreams of manlihood. But does it stop you from playing your part as a citizen in the modern world of consumption and fulfilment? Hardly. Do you have hungry children in your house? Has your orchard been uprooted lately? Do you have to stand for 12 hours in a line in order to visit your brother in the village next door? Why do you think this Arab should sit and contemplate causality of circumstances? “Im ein lechem, ein torah”. T’is that simple.

    The Palestinians might be a long way from coming to terms with their share in this mess (and they carry a large share). But as long as they live in the most squalid camps on the planet, there is little chance they will have time to produce the kind of empathy you profess we carry naturally. This self-image is a hoax, it is pompously vain and it serves our detractors better than it assists our evolution as saner people and a healthier nation.

    So, in conclusion, based on your knowledge of Jewish/Israeli culture, your involvement with the student movement in USA/Israel, your ethno-centric study of culture and of history, and familiarity with the current neo-con geo-political climate, I doubt very much that real reflection will come about, until there is a paradigm shift in the Zionist world that replaces the biblical sense of justice and Jewish view of History.

    I hope you will not take the last paragraph personally! It is not meant to ridicule or offend. It is just as easy to see the other’s fault as it is difficult to see the similarity of our own shortcoming (hence “haposel bemumo posel”). May we all see the light within, may we all serve divinity with love and recognition of our oneness.

  • Michael, your comments are well written and well thought out. Thanks.

    My concern is that Palestinian women suffering at roadblocks were far less important 5 years ago than they are today. A Palestinian war has brought about the current situation where the IDF is back in the Palestinians’ areas.

    Likewise, it’s hard to blame the sad shape of some of the camps on Israel. First of all, the camps weren’t set up by Israel. They also aren’t administered by Israel. There’s poverty in many places in the world, especially the Arab world, and if this is another part of it where we see poverty, the blame need not be placed at Israel’s feet.

    Ultimately, Israel is no angel, and the occupation is a sad state of affairs, to be sure. But I have sat in on dialogue groups where the massacres by local Arabs of Jews were blamed…on the Jews.

  • Yeah, I’m all for promoting understanding, but the reality is that these meetings seem to be a waste of time. The only thing the Arabs commiserate with is our guilt. I would like to think that talking in any way is beneficial as it will bring them closer to understanding, or at least reason, but sadly I fear it’s not only a waste of time and energy, but will weaken our position as admissions of guilt will be used as ammunition against us.

  • u call your self jews how can you justify the geniside of our people! lets get our facts straight there hase never been a time in 4,000 years were jews did not live in israel. now lets look at the arabs history in that land. the crusades the arab were nice to the jews just the europeans were bad thats what every one seems to think but this is bull sh!t they taxed the shit out of us and made us ware an article of clothing to identifie us as non muslems in our own country at a time when you cant argue wether or not it was ours now lets fast for ward to pre state israel the majority of the land was uninhabitable we purchased most of it from absenty arab land owner the only arabs that actulaly lived there were nomads that only lived there some times and were more than willing to sell there land there wasnt a major arab population in israel until the jews built facturies and made the swamps and dunes into fertile farming land


  • I can’t believe I just found this thread now. Admittedly, my comments probably make little difference two weeks out, but I just wanted to say that contrary to the opinions of people who were there not at all, or for one afternoon (laya and mobius), the Sulha is not a waste of time at all. Laya, I love you, but you sat in on one sicha and pronounced judgment of the entire endeavor from there. Yes, the dynamic of that circle was difficult. However, 200 yards away, you had the Bereaved Parents Forum tent, where families on both sides who have lost loved ones come together, and tour the entire country, to discuss reconciliation. There, you would have heard a myriad of stories of sadly, atrocities on both sides, and Palestinians taking responsibility for the undeniable pain of their Israeli counterparts. You also would have seen the Women’s Tent, Ohel Sarah v’Hagar, where women talk tachlis and basically share their stories of the “other,” crying together. Then there’s the kids’ activities, and back in the same prayer tent you were in, communal prayer.
    It’s not the end, it’s the Way to Sulha–it’s a start, when relationships are built, a foundation, a consciousness for moving forward. ANd you know who emails me almost every day? A guy from Ramallah who wants to get to know more Jews, who is sorry and ashamed for his peoples’ culpability in the conflict, just as I am for the Israelis’. It’s a two-way street, a lot more than you may imagine. Yes, we have far to go, but with the foundation we create at things like the Sulha, we can get there, b’ezrat Hashem.

  • Wait. Am I wrong in saying that when israel was created, innocent arabs were displaced , some killed, in order to make way for a new jewish homeland. If I was a palestinian, Id be pretty pissed too!

  • David, in 1948 lots of Jews in Israel were displaced and some were killed (1% of the entire population, which seems to be a much higher number than Palestinian deaths).


    Because of a war launched by the Arabs to prevent the establishment of a Jewish OR Arab homeland. So if you were Palestinian and you launched a war and then you lost the war and the land over which it was fought, you might be pissed. You might also consider yourself a fool.

    Of course, the deepest and saddest irony of all is that in 2000, you, as a Palestinian, were on the verge of receiving from the moral Israelis a Palestinian state on most of the land accorded to you by the international community and that you rejected in 1948 before launching that stupid war which made you pissed. And in 2000, you would have even had autonomy and some sovereignty in Jerusalem.

    But instead…you launched another war.

    Are you pissed or are you feeling foolish?

  • David – deaths were occasioned not by virtue of the creation of the state of israel, but because of the war launched against it by the arab world. Innocent arabs were never killed “in order to make way for a new jewish homeland.” You may see this as a subtle distinction, and it does little for those who were victimized in 1948, but it does point to who the real culprits were and continue to be – those who refuse to acknowledge the reality and the permanence of the State of Israel and who continue to refuse to live as peaceful neighbours with it.