Common Grounds

The Biblical Abraham is key …

April 28, 2017

By Abraham van Kempen


When will the people in Israel – Palestine greet each other with: “Welcome home”?


What if, in the beginning, the Jews entered the ‘Land’ with humility, recognising and honouring the indigenous people of Palestine, like the Biblical Abraham? We cannot turn the clock back. But we can move toward a better tomorrow. There are good people. There are bad people. Good people on all sides can learn to get along. Bad people can’t. Of course, the good can become bad and vice versa because we all have the good, bad and ugly within us. Which we choose defines who we are. Right now, and for too long, the bad people in the region hijack the good people, a minority tyrannising the (silent) majority. Most people – the majority – in the Region want peace. But it is fear that keeps them apart.

The Biblical Abraham is key …

There is a good side to the Israeli character. For many, certainly for my mother, the concentration camp has also been a breeding ground for compassion and tolerance. Once my late mother said: “We were more human in camp … we cared for each other … our lives were falling apart yet we fell into each other during moments of greatest suffering…“ Where are the true Israelites, those who are compassionate and caring, filled with a spirit of generosity and kindness?


Wouldn’t it be an ironic twist if all the indigenous people in the Region were genetically connected to any of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Israelites, God’s Chosen? And even if none of the Palestinians carry the DNA of the original Israelites, certainly God’s DNA prevails in us all because we are created in His image. And in God’s image, we are more invisible than visible. Shouldn’t we then seek to understand the other?


Why does the Israeli-Palestinian Feud, the defining feud of our times, enrapture the world? Could it be that our hearts belong to a New Jerusalem, that Shining City Upon a Hill? Perhaps we all carry the DNA of the original Israelites inside our souls to become a light to all nations. We know how many seeds are inside an apple. Only God knows how many apples are in one seed.


Neo-Zionist leaders from Mr Ben Gurion to Mr Binyamen Netanyahu have, according to world public opinion, taken many wrong turns in their territorial obsessions – their rage and blind ambitions – to expand their lebensraum. Instead of triumphing in peaceful harmony, they have capitulated to tribal warfare on a collision course against their Judaic conscience. Neo-Zionism disgraces the Jewish way of life and is, in fact, anti-Semitic. They have bastardised a beautiful God-given word ‘Zionism’, which the Sacred Texts define as “people of God in full submission and faith in God with humility, creating a heaven on earth for the people to become a light among nations”. Neo-Zionism (hell on earth) is not Zionism (heaven on earth).


Revealed as a dark side of Judaism, Neo-Zionism rules and dominates the Israeli zeitgeist beguiling and chaining many Jews into believing in something they are not. This aberration ruptures civility in Israel-Palestine. Neo-Zionism has split many Jewish families apart. Worse, Neo-Zionists, while often waving the banner of Holy Goodness in the glare of world television, torment and inter the indigenous Palestinian Arabs into concentrated encampments to live a hell on earth. The world is enraged. Israel is split apart. Israel has lost the war in the Greater Court of World Public Opinion.


Without the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict, there would be an internal Israeli conflict that inevitably could unglue their social fabric now fragilely held intact by the fear mongering against a prefabricated common enemy. Peace could bust the socio-cultural seams between the secular, the national-religious and the Orthodox; between the old Ashkenazi community, the Oriental Jews and the Sephardic Community; between the immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia; between the Neo-Zionists (hell on earth) and the true ‘Zionists’ (heaven on earth); and could further alienate the Israeli-Arab citizens, whose separation from the rest is increasing. Socially, Israel is unstable. It is even worse economically. In Israel, the disparity between rich and poor, so underreported, is reprehensible.


If another East Aleppo tears lives apart but this time in West Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv, would President Donald J. Trump risk a World War? Is Israel – Palestine worth World War III”? Does ‘America First’ mean America’s self-survival first? Isn’t there a better approach to liberate all the people – the ‘good’ Jews, the ‘good’ Palestinians, the ‘good’ Christians from the claws of the Neo-Zionists?” One, who is ‘human’, in Yiddish ‘mensch’, senses demagoguery and war mongering in their propaganda, galvanising the masses into fear. Neo-Zionists still mindlessly parade themselves as kings wearing no clothes, denying the reality that history is on the side of the nearly 400 million others in the Middle East.


I want Israel to survive. I am of Jewish descent. I, too, have a spiritual connection to the land. The region is my home, born on the outskirts of Israel – Palestine on a British Ship, Red Sea of Dutch parents. Inside my soul and within all of my being, I am attached to the splendor of its many colors, their tints and hues. I really do not know how to explain my love and deep devotion to the land, but I understand implicitly and intuitively why neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will ever leave.


I want Palestine to be Palestine and the Palestinians honoured and respected with dignity. Neither can exist without the other. Both must reconcile with each other.  Neither can get away with murder nor can either get something for nothing. “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 per cent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable,” says former Secretary of State John Kerry. I cannot be more long-winded and as persuasive. Many Jews, especially the misinformed in the Diaspora, are blindly following the Neo-Zionists slippery slope toward self-destruction. Their only choice: build the bridge and come together. Any peace accord, without full reconciliation, will inevitably collapse. The wounds will only be temporarily soothed, letting the disease to stealthily spread and eventually erupt and explode again.


The Land of Israel is the Land of Palestine. After crushing the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE, the Romans, changed the name of Israel back to ‘Palaestina’. 

  • The Palestinians are indigenous to the region not for decennia, not for centuries … for millennia.
  • The Israelites (not just Jews) are indigenous to the region not for decennia, not for centuries … for millennia.
  • And through the ages they have lived and worked together and enriched each other, not just materially but especially spiritually. Islam and Christianity could never have evolved without Judaism. All observant Jews, Christians and Muslims are esteemed as People of the Book. 

Will the people in Israel – Palestine ever say to each other: “Welcome home”?


What if a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians respond to the higher calling of becoming a ‘light among nations’, ‘seeking the better angels of our nature’ and act accordingly as responsible citizens in the community of men and women, especially among those they have hurt so much? Can and will the Israelis and the Palestinians destroy their enemy by becoming friends with all the give and take to make and keep the friendship? They will want nothing more than a full reconciliation with their neighbours. “We can’t get away getting something for nothing … we can’t get away with murder … let’s tear down the walls between us, share the land, and break bread together … and here is cash, earnest money, a compensatory resolve to seal the deal.”


The vast majority of the Israeli Jews (73.8%), Israeli Arabs (97%) and the Palestinian Arabs (85.7%) want peace, heretofore, either not realized or denied by all sides of the Divide. This is breaking news affirmed by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Check out their survey of Israeli and Palestinian Opinion (executive summary here, full survey here). Respondents include 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and 1,184 Jewish and Arab Israelis.


Most respondents are shocked that the other craves peace and just about all misconstrue each other’s intentions. It gets worse. Most everyone wants peace but few agree on the route to getting there. Even if I invite only the peace ‘makers’ to partake on a feast of culinary delights buffet-style, I’d have to separate them into two rooms. Why? One group, a small majority, wants a two-state solution (Israeli Jews 53.4%, Israeli Arabs 87.1%, Palestinians West bank 50.9%, Palestinians Gaza 52.1%). The other group, a minority, wants a one state solution (Israeli Jews 20.4%, Israeli Arabs 52.4%, Palestinians West bank 32.8%, Palestinians Gaza 37%).


The Region is meant to be shared because The Promised Land (Hebrew: הארץהמובטחת‎‎, translit.: Ha'Aretz HaMuvtahat; Arabic: أرضالميعاد translit.: Ard Al-Mi'ad) is the land which, according to the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), was promised and subsequently given by God to Abraham and [all] his descendants. Abraham is named by God to mean “father of a multitude of nations”.


Abraham’s legacy was that he lived a life filled with profound courage and moral imagination. He shared the Promised Land. And humbly, Abraham persisted on paying an honest price for his grave, which was much more than what the indigenous people wanted. They intended to present the land as a gift to one whom they revered. The most preponderant lesson to be learned from the Biblical Abraham was that in his blind ambition to obey, God stopped Abraham to kill in His name. 


Neo-Zionism defiles the good in the Abrahamic Faiths and defies the prime directive in the Sacred Texts: Revere the Stranger. Neo-Zionists are obsessed with creating an exclusionary community (kampf), a lebensraum for a ‘Chosen Few’, by deploying brute force without considering the consequences of the other; by unconscionably dispossessing them from their properties, displacing them from the land and imprisoning them in servitude behind iron walls with no hope to ever return; with neither compromise, concession or conciliation; them or us; the end justifies the means! It’s either ‘my way or the highway’. This perversion and aberration, this depraved, distorted and deviant ideology – this false religion – can never have a happy ending. Ask Nazi Germany!


We, the people of the world disdain Fascism as demonstrable to the vote (and veto) of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on 23 December 2016, outlawing illegal settlements … making it a criminal offence to dispossess, displace and imprison the indigenous people from their land.  “We cannot give up on the search for an end to this conflict,” says President Barack Obama in his response dated 16 August 2016 to my letter.


So what is it that the people of Israel - Palestine really want? 

  • “Among Israeli Jews, 1) a Jewish majority (identity) is seen as the most important value (35%), followed by 2) peace (32%), 3) democracy (20%) and 4) a Greater Israel (10%). 
  • Among the Palestinians, 1) Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and 2) the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with 3) East Jerusalem as its capital is seen as the most important value (45%), followed by 4) obtaining the right of return for refugees to their 1948 towns and villages (32%), and 5) building a pious or moral individual and a religious society (13%)”. 

BOTTOM LINE, most Israelis and Palestinians want to be safe from ‘terrorist’ attacks, especially state terror. Most Palestinians worry more about jobs than about territory or borders. Most people on all sides want little more than for the other side to leave them alone. Before they are willing to break bread with the other, they would first want to put bread on their own tables to take care of their families and to raise their children. Everyone deserves to be happy. Everybody wants to wake up to a more fulfilled life. On all sides of the Divide, people do their best to provide food, shelter and education. Jews, Christians, and Muslims everywhere whisper the same daily prayer: ‘take care of our children’.


Many work their hammer to forge steel, to shape something that lasts. Others pick up their hammer to shatter glass, to harm, injure and destroy. We are all challenged to choose either of these two options, day in and day out. Israelis and Palestinians must reclaim their guiding principles and fundamental beliefs derived from the Sacred Texts: “love your neighbour,” “love the stranger,” and “justice, justice shalt thou pursue”. Israel - Palestine is after all the Holy Land. The essence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam insists upon its adherents to trust their moral compass, synchronized with moral courage and moral imagination to envisage full acceptance of Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Christians and Muslims (and not just in Israel - Palestine).


“How Does One Reunite a Million-Year Old Rain Drop With a Million-Year-Old Blossom” (American Poet Dario Robleto)?


Sooner than later the people of Israel - Palestine can and will be Living Together, inside ONE Home Land within TWO borderless states (zones), their ONLY option. Will the people of Israel - Palestine take up the challenge and converge toward a series of catalytic possibilities? The alternative will inevitably result in more cataclysmic calamities. 


During the long history of propaganda battles between Zionists and Palestinians, each community has perpetrated pain and suffering against the other. Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of ‘Embracing Israel/Palestine’ states: “both sides have made and continue to make terrible mistakes. Yet the choices of both sides are also understandable, given their perceptions of their own and the other’s situation”. 


Rabbi Lerner continues: “as long as each community clings to its own story, unable to acknowledge what is plausible in the story of the other side, peace will remain a distant hope.” Repeatedly rehearsing and nursing their hurts reflect the history and hysteria of their individual and collective traumas. Though it is difficult to erase the memories aggrieved by the oppressors against the oppressed, we can seek solace in turning onto the many highways toward peace. All roads lead home. All roads lead to God.


The task is no longer a question of ‘who is right’ but to focus on building a path that will be best served for all. Let’s start fresh and anew. The timing is opportune. We need stability in the Region. If peace is possible there, it is possible everywhere.


The Biblical Abraham is Key …


And, the Biblical Abraham is key: ‘father of a multitude of nations’, in full submission and faithful to the one God with humility to whom God has entrusted the Promised Land, meant to be ‘Zion’, a heaven on earth for the people to be a light among nations. The tradition of Abraham is to honour, respect and dignify the other, in short: Revere the Stranger.




Building the Bridge Foundation, The Hague


Abraham A. van Kempen



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