27 May 2010: Nakba, Shoah, and May 14-15
Today at Washington, DC's, Palestine Center, Dr. Mark Ellis, a university professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at Baylor University, spoke to a packed room about "The Ongoing Nakba and the Jewish Conscience." This eloquent and forceful academic and activist has authored twenty books.
Having walked in deciding that I am pro-Palestinian-yes, pro-Palestinian-I added this to being pro-Israel without canceling myself out, because ultimately I am pro-peace and anti-suffering of the innocent, the true Nakba (catastrophe) that afflicts so much of the world.
Many years ago, three months after my daughter was born and because she was delivered by a Muslim Arab, I wrote a play titled Solution to the Near East [that's how we referred to the Middle East back then]. In it an American Jewish woman is stuck in a small, windowless hospital room with her male, Muslim obstetrician/gynecologist. After she tries repeatedly to throw him out as he fills the room up with Tiparillo smoke, she gives up and remembers how she resented the small amount of time he spent with her while she was in labor. So she initiates a conversation about a vexing issue:
She: "What's it like to be an Arab?" He: "Oh, you have to go there."
After an expectable trade-off of ideas, a policeman enters the room and offers to remove the doctor. The woman says she doesn't see anyone, so the policeman shrugs his shoulders and leaves. She bids her doctor good-night and each rolls over to face his/her wall, back to back in narrow hospital beds.
Read the play at www.wordsunltd.com/Both_Sides_of_the_Wailing_Wall.htm, and the entire trilogy of which it is second, if you believe that my take on the situation will "reward" further reading, if you believe, along with the good doctor, that "You can't keep birds out of the trees very long." This play focuses in on the issue, while the first and third treat feminism and ethnic ironies and slapstick, satiric comedy, respectively.
My idea was the fifty-fifty solution offered to the long-at-odds Palestinians and Israelis by the British: they got Jordan, the Jews got Israel. Israel today looks like a caterpillar crawling up Jordan's torso-the one country is so much bigger than the other.
The situation turned out to be far more complex than sharing a hospital room fifty-fifty, however. I had oversimplified. Chalk it up to postpartum mania to recreate the world now that I had recreated myself (vastly improved, actually).
No one wants to be uprooted, though-neither hundreds of thousands of Palestinians nor the millions of Jews who died during World War II. Those who made it to Israel, about half a million between 1948 and 1950, had been uprooted themselves, obviously, so weren't in the best frame of mind to do anything but kiss the earth and resettle in the land of milk and honey the Lord had set aside for them. Then came attack by five Arab countries, then Jewish victory, then Jewish uprooting of countless Palestinians.
As a result, rancor persists and burgeons progressively to this day. May 14 in Israel marks the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, and May 15 in the Palestinian territories is Nakba Day, the Palestinians' Tisha B'Av (the day Jews mourn for the destruction of the two temples, said to have fallen on the same Hebrew calendar day; by extension, this fast day embraces all Jewish suffering throughout the ages).
Hope can only issue forth from reality, Professor Ellis told us this afternoon.
"The Jews and Palestinians share a sinking boat. They will be rescued together or go down together."