Today, after the war in Gaza, a war that harmed human life and damaged property; a war that ruined families and destroyed buildings; a war that left hundreds wounded and dead and thousands of families bereaved, a war that added more pain, fear and hatred on both sides; a war that further divided both nations and diminished the faint chance of peace; we must look around us.
The day after the war in Gaza is a time to recuperate, a time for soulsearching and a time to consider the question: How can we bring peace and calm to this war-torn region? In a situation of pain and sorrow such as this, what can young people do in order to strengthen the prospects for peace and calm in this region? It's critical to ask this question because it's very possible that young people will be the ones to make the necessary changes that will bring peace closer.Giving Meaning to a Familiar Phrase
"Young people are the future" is the familiar phrase. The young are the next generation; they are those who will decide how the world will look in the future. This is the reason why most Western developed countries invest so much in education - to develop a new and educated generation. The young are the gateway to a brighter future because they do not carry the heavy burden of old patterns of thinking, different beliefs and negative life experiences. Young people are vigorous and they can therefore bring about real change through their fresh approach and vision. They can open the door to a new future using a variety of paths previous generations have never even thought of. Young people are capable of overcoming obstacles created by differences and disagreements from past conflicts, and they are able to come closer to young people from both sides and, together, move towards peace and harmony.
On many occasions, when I spent time outside Israel and also through conversations on the Internet, I have had the privilege of conversing with people of different religions and nationalities. Our exchanges were deep and engaging and we never got into arguments or conflicts. The atmosphere in these conversations was calm and easy-going, an atmosphere of respect and appreciation of others as human beings regardless of origin. The basis for this approach - that every person is an individual person despite contrasts and differences - places emphasis on our collective imagination and, from there, creates a dynamic of acceptance and love towards the other. That is the way to create a culture of peace and non-violence between different communities.Change from Within
In order to implement these values, values that strengthen peace, one needs to generate change from within. There exists a formula I've often heard, "When we change, the world changes," meaning that when each person chooses to bring about change within, that person becomes an inspiration and an example to those around him. This is a mantra I learned from Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual organization committed to selftransformation through meditation and positive thinking. This example continues to spread and attract more and more people. If this force reaches enough people who thereby decide to change their attitude and awareness in order to improve the situation in which we live in, we can change the world and make a better future.
Thus, in order to strengthen the prospect for peace, we must create change in both nations, and this change can occur after each human being promotes internal change.
One of the key obstacles to peace is problems with communication. In order to overcome this international problem, we must first effect change in our relationships with others - solve the problems of communication with those close to us. In many cases, the cause of a problem in communication is misunderstanding, a lack of consideration for the other and shortsighted selfishness. When we try to change others instead of changing ourselves, we damage our social network and our ability to communicate with others. For instance, when two people quarrel over a certain region and each side maintains the region is his and he was there first, each one is limited to his Every person is an individual person despite contrasts and differences. This places an emphasis on our collective imagination and, from there, creates a dynamic of acceptance and love towards the other. That is the way to create a culture of peace and non-violence between different communities. own side in which he is convinced that he is right. People habitually occupy themselves with thoughts that justify their own position: how my position is harder to bear, more painful and the other's is not. In fact, if the members of each side would leave the bubble in which they find themselves, would look at the wider picture and, like objective observers, would consider the other, and look at the world from their point of view and acknowledge their needs and difficulties with compassion, both sides would succeed in reaching a compromise and living peacefully. Yet this does not happen because, all too often, we only try to correct and change the other; we see only the mistakes of the other instead of seeing our own mistakes - the mistake of trying to change the other. No mistake can be corrected by another mistake. To be angry, to hate, to hold a grudge and to change the other by force, is a mistake, and will not achieve anything. If we continue to use the same tired approach, it's a sign that nothing has changed at all and we cannot expect the other to change. If so, we must invest our efforts in trying to change ourselves rather than trying to change others, for this did not lead to peace.
Therefore, I found that to effect changes from within we must work in three stages. The first stage is to create new ways of thinking. We need to develop a sense of appreciation, respect, acceptance and compassion for the other side. We need to fashion a frame of mind of love and harmony in order to live in peace together. Once created, this attitude will not disappear with time, but will become stronger with continued work, for the second stage is the nourishment of the new approach. In order to advance and become stronger, this change has to adhere to the new approach; we need to sustain it with new thoughts and remind ourselves again and again of our goal. Together with the creation of the new approach, we must also destroy old patterns of thinking. Mental fixation is the enemy of change and, therefore, we must put a stop to it. From a young age, we have been used to thinking in a certain way, taking cues from what was said to us, whether it was from our family's political beliefs, what was taught to us in school, the news, various opinions we heard from the media or tribulations we experienced which caused us to develop certain attitudes towards the other side. This is the problem with mental fixation; it promotes prejudice, stigmas and even racism. Take for example a survey conducted among some 500 Jews, young people among them, two years ago by the Geo-Cartography Institute for the Center Against Racism. The survey found that about 75% of those interviewed are unwilling to live in a building with Arab neighbors. When they were asked what they felt upon hearing Arabic, 31% of the participants indicated they "felt hatred" and 50% indicated that they felt "fear." Another survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute a few years ago revealed only 14% are of the opinion that Arabs and Jews have good relations. If so, these preexisting beliefs greatly diminish the prospects of peace and harmony between the two sides. And, thus, we need to put an end to the old perspectives and ways of thinking, so they will not interfere with the new approach.
In place of old patterns of thought and the worn-out approaches, real and powerful change will only come about if we execute these three steps in unison. If one step is missing, the change capable of influencing many people in the long run will not occur. But when using this process correctly, it is possible to produce an inner change that will spread and strengthen the prospect for peace.
In order for this change to actually occur and influence others, it is not enough for us to work on it individually. Indeed, it is essential to be part of a youth group united by common interest. The group would fortify the support for change and strengthen communication between both sides. To do so, we must establish a movement of young people with open minds, willing to overcome resentment and hatred, young people who want to advance the peace process, young people who are interested in influencing beliefs of their society. We need to establish a group of young people such as this on both sides that can meet regularly and facilitate dialogue on a variety of issues and subjects that are on the agenda. This group can work to influence authority figures, the government, educators, the media and more.
In closing, in order to advance the prospects of peace, we need to generate a fundamental change in our attitudes and patterns of thought towards the other side in this conflict. This change will lead to a wider change that will influence many people and, in so doing, further the peace process. This change will be accomplished by putting a stop to the previous generation's mental fixation and by creating our own new approach which we then must sustain and strengthen. With this change we can solve communication problems and increase dialogue between both sides. We must foster dialogue between young people on both sides who are ready to make this change and reach out for peace.
Translated from the Hebrew.