When Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a co-founder of Roots, spoke to a capacity crowd at a Nov. 10 Temple program, he was careful not to stake out a political position for his organization.
After all, Roots, a West Bank group of Israeli settlers and Palestinians, is about building trust between sides – a necessary component if a political settlement is ever to be achieved.
“Roots is pre-political,” said Schlesinger, a West Bank resident. “Roots has a political vision, but not a political plan. By vision, I mean a general outline, but not nuts and bolts.”
And what is that outline?
“We believe in a new political and social reality that recognizes both sides’ historical connectedness to the whole land, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, and provides a framework for both sides to live in that land with dignity, equality and human rights.”
As for how that vision is achieved, Roots takes no position.
Having said that, Schlesinger, noted that many individual Roots members have signed on to a peace plan – one that gets very little ink or airtime in the United States.
It’s called Two States, One Homeland or a “three-state solution,” as Schlesinger described it. It’s an idea that rejects the one- and two-state solutions as unworkable for different reasons.
The two-state solution won’t work, the thinking goes, because each side gets only part of the land when they feel they have historical rights to all. And the one-state proposal won’t work because each side wants its own state. They are not interested in the melting pot models of the United States or Belgium.
But the three-state solution is different, working on three principles:
Open borders (freedom of movement),
Open residency (anyone can live anywhere in the land while maintaining citizenship in their particular country);
Confederation of Israel-Palestine, also known as an “Abrahamic Union,” yet two sovereign states with their own flags and United Nations representation.
“You create two states, but not two separate states – two intertwined and connective states,” Schlesinger said.
“When you bring the two sides together in this union, with its own parliament, its own prime minister, you create a situation, with these three levels of intertwining, that both sides get their own piece of the cake,” the rabbi continued.
The three-state solution is a real thing. A political movement in Israel, called A Land for All, advocates for it. (see alandforall.org for details
Sounds great, but there’s a catch.
“This plan is beautiful; it’s really, really powerful,” Schlesinger said. “Unfortunately, presently, it’s impossible, because it requires trust … and empathy and recognition. The truth is, I believe, any political plan will require trust and recognition and empathy.”
That’s where Roots comes in, it’s main work is building that trust, empathy and recognition, so that a political plan – whatever it is – can work.
Right now, both sides, on the West Bank at least, don’t trust each other.
Speaking just for the Jews, Schlesinger described them as a “scarred people,”
“Many, many of us feel that the whole world is against us,” he said. “We feel that we are an island of sanity in a world of insanity, that we have to defend ourselves. We’re traumatized. Many, many Israelis see the Palestinians as just the next version of the Nazis, and the Nazis were just the next version of the Inquisition, and Inquisition was just the next version of the Crusades, and they’re all out to get us. That mindset is the mindset of a wounded people, and the psychologists tell us that wounded people wound.”
What Jews in Israel and the Diaspora must understand, he said, is that the Palestinians feel the exact same way.
“We have to begin this process of human healing,” he said. “We first have to do the people-to-people work” that will create trust and empathy and recognition.
Lee Chottiner is the editor of The Jewish Louisville Community.