Op-Ed: Israel: Memory and Future
Boris Dolin, CEO "Telem"The writer is CEO of "Telem – Speaking for Israel", an Israel Advocacy organization, created by a group of young Israelis in order to bring back our story, the Israeli experience, to the public attention. www.telem.me
When we began to return, we understood the ways of the Middle East. Maybe we came with this knowledge from Eastern Europe, from Yemen and Persia. Maybe we learned here.
This way or another, we knew what a world without Israel is, we thought in terms of history, of eighty generations in exile, in terms of coming home. We came to the land like the long separated lovers we were, we came back to the landscape of our childhood, to the mountains and valleys about which we sang for two thousand years.
We spoke the language of the Middle East, and even if we didn't know the words, we shared the meaning. Home, family, history, honor, tribe. We understood our neighbors and they understood us – not agreement, but understanding.
We knew why we are here, we knew who we are and we spoke about it openly and directly, we celebrated it and this harsh land, hard soil, grey rock and yellow sand, became a land of milk and honey.
But then we began to forget. We forgot what a world without Israel is, what it was. For the new generations it is a given, it is obvious that we are here. We forgot the sense of history and the long way our family, our tribe, our nation walked to come back home.
Now we are celebrating the present, and both the past and the future pay the price. We adopted the thought of the West, the notion that nothing is real, that nothing has meaning, that only today matters, that the only true values are consumerism and entertainment, that every movie has a happy ending. We let others dictate a story for us, while our story is forgotten.
But the Middle East is still here, all around us. And although our neighbors face the same pressure of foreign thinking, they are still in the house of history, while we are one foot out. Focusing on today, focusing on personal wellbeing, we are losing touch with our roots, with our land, with our story.
People without a story, people without roots going deep into the ground, people whose thought is in the West while they are in the East – they will not remain in the East for long.
It simple enough, and yet we don't see it. We don't remember the names of our heroes anymore, we stopped singing the songs of yesterday – and it is mostly only old men who still speak aloud about true love.
The love of the land, the fields, the rain. The love of the desert and the empty roads. The love of sunrise. The love of creation. The love of home. Without memory there is no understanding, without love there is no connection. Without meaning, there is no future.
It is simple enough, and yet we do not see. We speak about peace, we dream about peace, but we fail to find it because we do not understand that we speak the wrong language.
In a region of memory and tradition, a region of calm winds and slow changes, we speak the language of the instant, the language of the immediate.
And we do not have true peace, Eastern peace, one that means acceptance and readiness to share the land and the waters of its wells, one that grows over time. We are surprised when our neighbors rise against us – but why shouldn't they if they never truly accepted us?
We allowed ourselves to sink in a pond of wishful thoughts, forgetting that instant houses come with no foundations, forgetting that instant food has no health value, forgetting that instant coffee may be tasty, but it is not true coffee at all.
And we have to wake up. We have to remember. We need to find our story again, embrace it with both hands, tell it to us, tell it to our neighbors, tell it to the world.
We have to tell it, because we are home.
We belong here – but without history, without memory – we belong nowhere.
We have to tell it, because nothing is given. Nothing is obvious. In order to have – you need to create, and the creation is not done. It can never be done. And we have to tell it, we have to remember, because the future will treat us the way we treat our past.