More than 20 hours of airline travel from Wilmington to St. Louis to Washington DC to Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, and I finally arrived and touched down in Israel.
After being interviewed by the ABC News affiliate in North Carolina about my upcoming trip, many friends had inundated me with expressions of deep concern and worry due to the developing war in Gaza.
However, I was not worried – I knew we weren’t going to the front lines or anything. But the unexpected sense of calm upon arriving in Tel Aviv was slightly surreal.
“What is the nature of your visit?”
“I’m going to be working on the election.”
“How long will you stay?”
And that was it for security – a vastly different experience from the cross examination I had received in 2004, where every item of my luggage was inspected thoroughly.
During the harrowing hours, days and weeks of the Gaza War, there has been an absolute monopoly in the media with war coverage here in Israel. The loss of life has been tragic and fear is running rampant on all sides. As of today there is a cease fire in place and Israeli troops are pulling out. Let’s pray that the situation won’t flare up again.
Ofer Lifschitz, chairman of the Israel political party Brit Olam, picked me up from the airport and we went straight away to a meeting in the Arab city of Um Al Faheam to meet with Muslim community leaders there as well as candidates on the Brit Olam slate. Israel uses a parliamentarian proportional representation system where each party runs nationally with a slate of candidates. Depending on how many votes any particular party slate receives determines the number of seats won in the Israeli Knesset (Hebrew, for “coming together”, like “congress”). Brit Olam, “Eternal Convenant” or “World Alliance”, has put forward the most diverse slate of candidates in the nation’s upcoming 18th Knesset Election. The party list includes secular and religious Jews, Arab Druze, Hasidic and Breslov orthodox–and has been endorsed by Israeli Arab leaders in the Muslim community. Due to widespread corruption, the callous approach towards the suffering of innocents and a paralyzed sense of leadership absent any positive results in regard to the Palestinian / Israel conflict, Brit Olam has called for a change in leadership in Israel and hopes to be a new spirit in the Knesset.
However, due to the current conflict in Gaza, postponement of the election may be inevitable. I am scheduled to be here through February 12th, and if the election is postponed I will not be able to stay longer as I have pressing political commitments back home in St. Louis, Missouri.
There have been many meetings with the party members and different influential folks from Dan to Eilat, from the north to the south. A few interviews in the Israeli media have been covering the party, most notably a large featured newspaper article on the first Arab Druze woman to be a candidate for the Israel Knesset (Sohir Hmdan, Brit Olam slate #4).
Several days ago, we released a press release in English and have continued to set up coverage opportunities to get Brit Olam’s transformative message of inclusivity, change and hope out to the voters in Israel and to concerned global citizens. What we take for granted in America, such as the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, simply don’t exist here. Democracy exists in Israel, but democracies come in all shapes and sizes and can be subject to a wide breadth of limitations and restrictions. Part of Brit Olam’s mission is to encourage the continuing evolution of Israel’s democracy, to embrace the immutable ideals of freedom, equality and dignity for all; morally sound principles of governance.
Many around the world have their eyes on Israel right now, not just because of the war, but because Israel acts as a Spiritual crossroads intersecting Holy Sites from the three Abahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All this attention for a nation of only 7 million shows how the Holy Land in many ways as a sort of ‘Spiritual heartbeat’ of the planet. My politics began here 5 years ago because in the aftermath of 9/11, I was compelled to press in and engage and after much research, decided to go right into the heart of the matter: the Middle East. I felt that helping to contribute to a resolution to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict could bring America and the West into a more harmonious and peaceful relationship with the Islamic World.
But the challenges in the melting pot of Israel are not merely confined to a clash between competing religious identities, people here also feel the friction between colonial interests vs. indigenous rights, the confusion from ethnic complexities and a cacophony created by a legion of voices and cultural interests sounding all at once. Not so unlike the domestic dissonance and social storms weathered by the American experiment in years past.
Barack Obama will be sworn in tomorrow as the 44th President of the United States and history will be made in so many ways, as his exciting candidacy has had so many firsts.
The impossible is possible and just as the Obama Presidency acts as a beacon of hope and possibility for all the peoples of the world, arriving at an acceptable solution in the Israeli / Palestinian conflict will be a milestone for humanity and for the world to see that it is achievable to move past seemingly intractable expressions of warfare and conflict. This is why the time is now to loosen the shackles of fear, adopt a long term strategy for peace and collectively co-create the future all of our precious young ones deserve.
Nitzahon la Shalom, Mansour Ya Salaam, Pirozi Ba Sol, and Victory to Peace!
In your service,