Is Race America’s “Middle East?”

“Seeing ‘there’ from ‘here’ changed how I saw ‘here‘ from ‘there.’”

“The One Truthiness” began in response to my first trip to Israel. I was fortunate to spend time with a number of bi-national communities — Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews living together “in conflict.”

I had avoided traveling to Israel for many years. As an American Jew, I found the topic intractable. Depending on with whom I was speaking, Israel was either completely Right or completely Wrong, both sides brooking no dissent or discussion. Being there in person, I met bi-national communities of people consciously living together, developing processes by which they could face the discomfort and complexities, raise families together, live next door to each other, be citizens with each other — neither ignoring their irreconcilable differences, nor allowing the conflicts to tear the community apart. I faced the question “how do you keep building the world you want to exist when there is little likelihood you will see it come to pass in your lifetime?” The problems of the Middle East are multi-generational and existential. When you are fighting for your life, what lines won’t you cross?

I came home to the Ferguson protests, America’s own multi-generational racial conflict where our fellow citizens are gunned down in the streets with impunity, where people shout about Right and Wrong, and yet people keep dying. 

How I saw “there” from “here,” changed how I saw “here” from “there.”

Since then, America and the world have become even more divided and partisan. From the small-scale to the large, many of us feel so pushed beyond our tolerance that we can not compromise. It’s just been too much. So we draw lines and stop listening, and this project becomes even more important.

— Charlie Levin

Special thanks to Barbara Ridberg for introducing me to Neve Shalom / Wahat al-Salam,
and the programs at the Jerusalem Y among others.