Neighbor, Neighbor on the wall...

How long would it be until you start avoiding both of them because you don't want to keep hearing about it?

This is an example our guest speaker at the Annual meeting of Federation gave us on what are the image problems Israel is dealing with right now. And he has a point. Defining Israel exclusively by the conflict when there is so much more that Israel is and that Israel gives the world, is indeed stupid. And yet, it is Human nature...

When you are engaged in a long conflict, after a while you loose perspective on what the conflict is all about, and most people would just become locked into a deadly embrace that ends up making both look like the kind of person you don't want to invite for dinner...or you don't want to support.

Israelis and Palestinians invest large amounts of resources and energies trying to show the world how the other side is wrong, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Not by chance, many jokes have been told about this situation. One of the ones I like the best is the one that tells that the Israelis and Palestinians are sitting around the table for yet another round of negotiations. The Israeli representative starts by saying "before we start I want to tell a story", and he does:

"When Moses came down from Sinai after forty days, he felt sweaty and stinky so he decided to go for a swim. He arrived to the pond, took off his clothes and piled them up by the shore, went into the pond and had a great swim. When he came back to shore, he couldn't find his clothes so he started screaming 'Who took my clothes', and the Israelites, as one, responded 'The Palestinians did'"

At this point, the Palestinian representative stands up in anger and yells "That is a lie - there were no Palestinians back then", to which the Israeli replies "Thank you, now that I made my point, let us negotiate"

The joke encapsulates into one story many of the issues that have defined the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conversation  between the sides has become a mutual recrimination society, where the important issue is not to resolve the outstanding problems and disagreements, but to make sure to be the one coming on top when it comes to being right.

This is not to say that real issues do not exist. Terrorism is still and issue, as is the feeling of many Palestinians that they are being humilliated by the Israeli control over their lives, and Iran still commands the rogue armies of Hamas and Hezbollah and is still working on a Nuclear weapon. All this needs to be resolved, but if we invest most of our energies in undermining the other's position, that is a lot less energy we have to address the real issues. A change requires that both sides look honestly at the situation, identify the points of disagreemewnt and find the necessary compromises to put those disagreements aside recognizing that there will have to be concessions on both sides.

As it is with Nations, it is with people and organizations. If two organizations spend most o their time trying to find fault in one another, they cannot do their real job as effectively and they both fail the test of effectiveness as measured by the fullfilment of their mission. They will also tend to blame "the other" for everything instead of having a hard critical look at their own mirror.

The Federation leadership for the last two years has been working hard to move beyond whatever disagreement might exist at any particular point in time and take the long look at where the community needs to go. At the end of 2009 we published the Agencies Review Report looking at the agencies from the perspective of Federation goals and priorities; in the coming months the community will hear about a Grant Writing initiative to promote those same goals by securing funds for programs and agencies working on them.

It is time we pull together as a community and that we recognize the need of leaving the past where it belongs...behind. It is not about where we were, but about where we need to be as a community. Those who do not move forward are usually left behind...


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