The Sanity of Small Acts (Extract)

Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Of course we have to have armies and police and leaders who sip from the public trough. We need politicians to growl at our enemies. We need dozens of tour guides and handshakers to take our friends on tours of the significant stones that poke up from the grass, recalling conquerors come and gone. We need pipes that the water will flow through and pipes that will take the sewage away. And we need managers and engineers to make charts of where the sewage will go. We need doctors and nurses and teachers and rabbis, and cafes for free-thinkers and gyms for Hellenists. But aside from all that, I think Israelis and Palestinians need something else. I think of it as the sanity of small acts. We need a phalanx of people willing to cross borders, scale walls in the opposite direction and take roads into villages and cities where the people live who would be our neighbors if, miracle of miracles, a peace agreement were reached. There have been some small gestures and little groups in Israel doing this work all along. But now is the time for a giant wave of ordinary people, without titles or invitations to diplomatic dinners, to adopt a village, a street, a family on the other side. Invite them to tea. Help their children, organize a soccer game, plan a festival. Reach out a hand and say we won't always be at each others throats. Let me help you plant, and come and see my child in his school play. If a few did this, that would be sweet; but if thousands upon thousands did this, the very air would change. The politicians all over would have to scramble to lead the people in friendship. They would rush to the front of the line and claim to have been there all along. I am thinking very tiny acts: a jar of fruit, a loaf baked in a woman's kitchen before she went to work, a game to amuse a child, the gift of a kite or a tablecloth. I am thinking that each little gesture towards the other people will mean, in the end, that the war mongers and the hate mongers and "everything is mine and nothing is yours" people will be washed away in a tide of self-esteem that will come over the cities and the villages of the land. I am thinking that these little acts will surely be returned and a bunch of new grapes will be left on the doorstep of someone in Haifa and a bouquet of flowers will find themselves in a hallway in a government building in a development town and someone will bring the prisoners in the jail chocolates and someone will knit a blanket for a baby born of a woman in Hebron. Yes, I hear the laughter and the mocking of the "realists" and the ones who made the situation the way it is. I hear the sensible doubts and the absurdity of trying, one human being to another, to do what all the diplomats have failed to do. I hear the grumbling of those who believe that history will give Israel the whole land because God willed it or because they want it for themselves. I hear the drumbeat of reality. Contributing editor Anne Roiphe is a novelist and journalist living in New York. Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.