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Photo: Omri Maimon
Israeli kids celebrate Independence Day in Ashdod
Photo: Omri Maimon

I have a dream of Israelis and Palestinians celebrating side by side

Op-ed: We cannot continue to be prisoners of the mentality of enmity. Even if our leaders choose to stay in the swamp of the past, we must rebel and break free in order to bring people together, particularly through symbols.

One of these years, in the near or faraway future, I have a vision of the people of our country from the river to the sea celebrating two Independence Days simultaneously, that of Israel and that of Palestine.

 

 

A real Independence Day for two peoples: no military parades, no speech by the Chief of Staff, no hatred, threats or condemnation. A public holiday in which there are processions of joy and love, with brightly-colored flowers, sparkling costumes, music and poetry that refresh both body and mind.

 

I have a vision of a Jerusalem where there are two processions at the same time and on the same day: one from the Western Wall plaza towards the Knesset, and the other from the plaza of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood towards the Al-Aqsa plaza.

 

Girl flies kite with Israeli flag on Independence Day (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Girl flies kite with Israeli flag on Independence Day (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

When each side finishes holding its national ceremonies, the parades continue until the two meet in the square in front of the Old City’s Hebron Gate. And there begins a special ceremony like no other in the world.

 

The Israeli president and the president of the State of Palestine advance towards one another while marching music plays in the background and each carries an ancient sword. They both meet in the middle.

 

A group of Jewish and Arab children from all ethnic groups and communities jump with joy and bring them a cushion, handing it to the two presidents who then plant their swords in the cushion, embracing one another as the children hold olive branches. This moment signals the beginning of joint Independence Day celebrations in both languages.

 

In today's discourse, this vision would appear to be nothing more than a naive dream. It will likely result in ridicule and contempt, especially among those with fossilized minds who would rather direct our energies to sacrificing our lives to war. But the naiveté and purity of my dream are a million times better than the language of hotheads who bear only hatred and hostility.

 

Teens wave Palestinian flags in Gaza (Photo: AP)
Teens wave Palestinian flags in Gaza (Photo: AP)

 

The leaders who rule over us today view our lives from a standpoint of arrogance and condescension. They know very well that at the end of the day there is no alternative but to stop the war and hostilities and turn to a solution that will bring peace to both peoples. But they do not dare to pay the price for this peace. Not only that, they still think that the price we paid so far in blood and suffering is not enough and that the two nations need to pay more. They still speak the language of 1948.

 

The difference between the leaders and the people is that the latter look towards the year 2048 and their conscience is nagged by pressing questions: What do we bequeath our children and grandchildren? More wars? Occupation? More selfishness and arrogance? Rejection of the other? Superiority over the other? What values do we leave them? What will we tell them about the Prophet Muhammad's command to care for our neighbors?

 

Our moral duty and conscience require us to move towards a new era. We cannot continue to be prisoners of the mentality of enmity. Even if our leaders choose to stay in the swamp of the past, we must rebel and break free in order to bring people together, particularly through symbols.

 

Jewish citizens celebrate their independence, as is their right. But they must know that this independence lacks something as long as the Palestinian people do not also enjoy their own independence.

 

The Palestinian people were unable up until now to achieve independence, so much so that the Nakba ("Day of Catastrophe") still weighs upon them. But to treat the Israeli independence as a Nakba – "their independence is our Nakba", as the slogan goes – means drowning in that same swamp of the past.

 

Israel celebrates its independence according to the Hebrew calendar. So it is possible for Palestinians to remember the Nakba on May 15, as do all Palestinians and Arabs around the world. The decision to remember the Nakba in Israel according to the Hebrew calendar is a malicious provocation.

 

We have to separate the two events so as to turn a new page in the relations between the two nations and pave the path towards the future.

 

Nazir Mgally is a writer and journalist and a research fellow at the Research Institute "Shacharit" in Tel Aviv and at A-Tahrir Communications and Research in Abu Dhabi.

 

This article was originally printed at i24news .

 


פרסום ראשון: 04.23.15, 19:27
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