The Key to Peace in the Middle East & Other Big Problems

I just got back from a 10-day trip to Israel, and although I’d love to show y’all the hundreds of photos I took, I’m just going to share one: #LoveWins.

I know that’s old news to us Americans, as the Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage legal happened earlier this summer, but in Israel, Gay Pride parades took place on its “Valentine’s Day” (Tu B’Av) on July 30th.

Coincidentally, we had just arrived and settled into an Airbnb’d apartment just steps away from the course of the parade in Jerusalem. My husband heard a ruckus outside, and called for all of us to come out and see what was happening.

Very quickly the rainbow flags we’d been seeing around the neighborhood where we were staying made sense. Unlike the outrageous, sexually charged, exuberant Pride parades in the U.S., this one featured a lot of young people dressed in t-shirts and shorts with the occasional rainbow painted on their cheeks, walking hand-in-hand, singing and cheering, and looking a lot like a parade of camp kids. All that was missing was a bearded dude on a guitar and the strains of “Kumbaya.” (And he was probably there, too.)

In Israel, marriage is a religious contract, and so gay marriage is not officially recognized. But there are broad rights for those who cohabitant, and so the LGBTQ community is strong, particularly in major cities — although the religious extremists (Jewish, Muslim, and Christian alike) vehemently oppose same-sex engagement.

We had no idea about any of that as we clapped and cheered along with the people marching in the parade. But suddenly the peaceful procession was interrupted first by cops running on foot, then on horseback, whirling by on motorcycles, and finally an ambulance.

At this point, my kids were getting freaked out, so my husband asked the nearby army officer if she knew what was happening, and she replied, “It’s just a fight, but don’t worry — fights are good.”

Why we took that as a suitable answer is beyond me, but we stood there several minutes longer as the parade briefly seemed to return to normal. But then it was more cops, and we finally snapped into the realization that all probably wasn’t so well or so safe, and we headed inside our apartment.

The next day we found out the truth: an ultra-Orthodox zealot who had been jailed for 10 years for stabbing people at a Pride parade in 2005 had done it again, injuring six people. In subsequent days one of his victims — a 16-year-old girl — died from her wounds.

The perpetrator told police that he had come “to kill in the name of G-d” — I’m sorry, what god says to kill your own people?

This is a question I’ve thought many times as supposed people of G-d have murdered patients and workers at abortion clinics, for example. From kamikazes to suicide bombers, when it comes to fanaticism, no religion or cause corners the market on fucked up interpretations of doctrine.

In my humble opinion, anyways.

(Although back in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, stating, “In Israel everyone, including the gay community, has the right to live in peace, and we will defend that right.” He went on to correctly characterize the assault as “a despicable hate crime.”)

Days later, standing at a former military outpost in the Golan Heights overlooking the Syrian border, as we admired the artwork of a soldier who literally beat swords into plowshares — or at least turned the ugly, twisted iron from the remains of tanks and other artillery into some pretty phenomenal, fun, and fantastical sculptures of cartoon animals and other whimsical creatures — we heard some soft thuds.

As we listened, the thuds became louder and more distinctive, and finally unmistakable. There were most certainly bombs going off in a not-too-distant Syrian city. The soundtrack of destruction, which our tour guide assured us was part of their civil war and not a concern to us, was ultimately not all that soothing.

Here’s the thing about war — when you are willing to perpetrate it on your own and even yourself, there will never, ever be peace.

How do I know? Because every single religion, humanism, and all the major philosophers espouse a version of The Golden Rule.

Christianity says: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12, King James Version

Judaism says: “”…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Leviticus 19:18

Islam says: “”None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.” 3

Buddhism says: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18

Confucianism say: “Tse-kung asked, ‘Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?’ Confucius replied, ‘It is the word ‘shu’ — reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.’” Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

Hinduism says: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517

(If you want more, there’s a list of Golden Rule-related quotes for 21 religions, and also as the words of acclaimed philosophers from Aristotle to Socrates here.)

Of course being an arm-chair pacifist maybe simplifies the whole deal, but in my (once again) humble opinion, if we learn to love ourselves and value our own lives first, then the rest will follow. (Millennial or GenX wisdom — you be the judge!)

Now that I’ve settled the question of how to make peace in the Middle East, I can move on to more complex issues like sorting out carpool for the new school year.

So if you see me humming “Kumbaya,” just know that when I pray, it’s always that someday everyone will glom onto the message that when #LoveWins, we all do. Amen, Awoman, and #BlessMyBitches!

#lovewinsIsraelpeace in the middle east