I am publishing below two very different “items”. The first is an summary of ordinary life for a retired professional couple from my friend, colleague and guest blogger, Prof Geoff Boner, an ex-South African medical specialist (nephrology) who has been living in Israel through virtually all his post-qualification years. The second, is from Al-Aqsa TV following a Hamas youth camp. I include both items cheek by jowl to stress the point that these are two peoples living only a few kilometers apart. Despite that, it would appear that they live in two totally different worlds.
Clearly in the long run, this is an unsustainable situation: one culture will survive and the other will disappear. In Darwinian terms we have two very different species (cultures or world-views) competing for the same ecological niche. This situation exists all over the world, including our own backyard, but rarely is it visible in such stark and uncompromising terms. The big question is: will equilibrium (even if temporary) come via violent conflict in which one group is eliminated and defeated militarily (perhaps with massive suffering and loss of life) or through more peaceful means in which both peoples survive and adapt. If it is the latter, it will signify the victory of the Israeli (Western) model since it is impossible for the other to win except through violence. It is built on the foundation of coercion and domination and can only be imposed through the sword.
This is the major issue of the 21st century. Our technological progress means that with rational governance we have the capacity (with mistakes and blunders thrown in) to create a high-quality world for every human being. But how do we get there without catastrophic, and quite possibly, terminal conflict between differing cultures and belief systems? The glimmerings of understanding are coming with scientific study of human psychology and social dynamics with the aid of formal systems of conceptualisation reflected in game theory, complexity theory, the study of complex adaptive systems, neuroeconomics and so on and so forth. Each of these (and many related disciplines not covered here) are separate specialisations with their own expertise and formalisms. How do we integrate them and move them out of the ivory tower into the real world in which we all exist?
It is not “rocket science”; it is many times more difficult. But is it possible? Who knows, but we can begin to use some insights (as I will try to show in future posts) and attempt to create a class of educated people who, in the future, are able to bridge that dangerous gap. We cannot wait forever: the Middle East, parts of Asia-North Africa, parts of South-Central America, North Korea and even Sub-Saharan Africa are incubators of violent and criminal groups capable of adapting modern technology to their own objectives. Even the populations of stable democracies are vulnerable to apocalyptic and fanatical cults.; or they sink into avoidance and passive denial.
In the meantime ponder the gap between the two worlds depicted below and consider where we go from here.
“Pam and I have been living in our present home for over 40 years. It is situated in a small village, called Hofit, which lies about 10 km north of Netanya. The village was first established over 60 years ago in order to provide homes for non-agricultural workers (the local physician, the postman, teachers etc.) of the moshav Kfar Vitkin. Kfar Vitkin is an old moshav and all essential services such as school, post-office, medical clinic are in the center of the moshav up to the present time. In 1969, I started to work in the Hillel Yaffe Hospital, which is in Hadera, and lies about 10 Km north of Hofit. I then looked for accommodation in the area and was lucky to discover that plots of land in Hofit were being put out to tender. We put in an offer and managed to get a plot and built our house there. In 1977 I moved to the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva but decided that we would stay on in Hofit. Our three children went to the school in Kfar Vitkin and then to the regional high school.
Hofit belongs to the Emek Hefer Regional Council, which includes many kibbutzim and moshavim and a few rural villages lying between Netanya and Hadera. Emek Hefer is a relatively large regional council with over 40,000 inhabitants. The head of the regional council is elected by all inhabitants and the council consists of representatives of each settlement who are elected at local elections. Each settlement also has a local committee. The services to the population are divided between the local committee and the regional council. The Emek Hefer Council prides itself on ecologic disposal of waste. In Hofit there is a central area with several separate bins for waste such as paper, plastics, plastic bottles, metals etc. Then each house has two bins, one for organic waste and another for waste not suitable for the other bins. Efforts are made to recycle as much of the waste as is possible.
As both of us are now officially retired the services for the elderly, they are called senior citizens, are beginning to become important. The regional council has extensive services for its senior citizens. There is a center where the infirm elderly can take part in organized activities. Transport is provided for those taking part in these activities. The council also provides emergency help to the elderly at their homes. There are weekly lectures on a large variety of subjects. All participants are transported from their settlements. There is a reasonable charge for participation in this activity. Pam attends these lectures and tells me that over 300 people are present. Then there is a monthly tour to various sites in Israel. Each tour is repeated on several days, each day being for residents from a different area. Each bus has a guide, a representative of the council and a paramedic. The tours are generally outstanding, but more of this later. Once a year, there is a short break (4 days) at the Dead Sea or some similar location. Once again transport is laid on. Then once a year, there is a trip overseas. Last year we went on the trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow. There were 4 busloads, two during one week and two the following week. We were taken from our home to the airport. Once again there was a representative of the council, an Israeli guide and for the overseas trip, a doctor. Thus the council does make an effort to help the senior citizens find interest in life.
Israelis tend to tour their country a lot. Many belong to several groups which organize regular tours. Although this is a small country there is much to do and see. In spite of the fact that we have visited many of the sites on several occasions there is always something new. We go on some of the tours of the senior citizens group. In addition our local village organizes occasional tours. We also belong to the Avshalom Institute, which teaches people about Israel, its history and geography. Although the institute is situated in Tel Aviv, they have a branch in our area. We have one lecture a month and one tour. The lecturers and guides are usually outstanding. Then the Israel Medical Association arranges monthly tours for pensioners. Pam also attends a weekly course on Archeology at the Tel Aviv University. This course is in English and the organizers also arrange occasional tours. Unfortunately there is often more than one activity on the same day and we have to choose. I will try to tell you about some of our tours in the future.”
Excerpts from a graduation ceremony for a Hamas youth camp in Gaza, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV [Gaza] on January 16, 2014:
Announcer: “Every Arab and every Muslim is filled with pride when he sees these young men preparing themselves for the day they will rock the fortifications of the enemy. Be proud! These words, which we memorize well, are uttered by the martyr, who ascends to Allah. We are the vanguard to be joined by Arab and Islamic armies – from Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and Egypt, and from every country that turns towards Jerusalem to liberate it. This land will welcome Arab armies only as liberators.”
Voice of Course Graduate: “Our message to the Zionist enemy, everywhere and at any time, is this: You shall never enjoy a pleasant life on our beloved homeland. We, the sons of the “Futuwwa” youth camps, will confront you on every hill, in every valley, and on every road. Nothing awaits you here but to be killed. Nothing awaits you here but to be killed or to leave.”
Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad: “…Let me congratulate you on your future victory, and on the annihilation of Israel. As I said yesterday, they have only eight years left. Just eight years, dear brothers! Therefore, sons and brothers, you do not have much time to train. Study, conduct training, become experts and be inventive, with the help of Allah. The battle will be your battle. The Jihad will be your Jihad. Palestine is your land, Islam is your religion, and Allah is your God. The Messenger is your role model, and the Koran is your constitution. You have been planted by Allah, and therefore, you will harvest the enemies of Allah in the battle to come.”
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya: “…The best way for us to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday is to walk in his footsteps and provide the future generations a Jihadi education. We shall walk in his footsteps in educating the future generation to love death for the sake of Allah as much as our enemies love life. This is the generation that will be qualified for liberation, victory, return, and independence. Woe betide you, oh sons of Zion, for weakness knows no entry route to the hearts of this generation. This is the generation of stone, the generation of the missile, the generation of tunnels, and the generation of martyrdom operations.”