The good fortune of birth
I live in the western world and I am alive today. I have often thought about the good fortune of my birth.
What if I had been born in one of Africa’s poor houses? What if I had not lived today, but a few hundred years ago or even a few years later …? In the Dark Ages, for example, in the middle of the human suffering brought about by the plague? Or in the future, with all the consequences of the actions of previous generations.
What if… . Such intellectual meanderings remind me time and again that I have the privilege of living in and enjoying an age of peace and also that everything that we now take for granted is actually a great achievement for which we have the generations that came before us to thank.
The fact that I never have to go hungry and have comprehensive medical care.
That, if I wanted to, I could walk through the towns and cities at night without being afraid.
That I can make mistakes and have time to learn from them, without it immediately costing me my freedom or my life.
Pain was an appropriate stimulus for these thoughts
A TV program was shown one evening a few days ago. A quick look back at the year 1967. It immediately sparked my interest. Probably in part because I was born in that year. It was about the Six-Day War between Israel and some of the Arab states.
I just thought to myself: “Has the conflict down there really been going on for that long?”And continued to butter my slice of bread.
A few days later I hit my knee hard. And I cried out. There’s nothing like your own pain. And I thought: “What if I had to suffer this pain every day for decades?”
And how much suffering must people have to endure, inflicted on themselves and others, in a war?
And two days later I was suddenly struck by the fact that for decades now a conflict has been smoldering away and breaking out sporadically between Israel and the Palestinians, interrupted from time to time by cease fires and peace negotiations, before it begins again.
I immediately felt extremely reluctant to continue with my examination of this topic. How many countries have already sent envoys? How often has there been hope of success and peace, only to find that the conflict escalates again?
And who is right? Who should be vindicated? Or should we just wait to see which side succeeds in suppressing the rights of the other and has the right to dictate terms simply because it is stronger?
I am sick and tired of hearing repeatedly on the news about attacks and suicide bombings and rockets and pain and suffering.
War destroys and peace builds
I imagine that, as long as there are disagreements and conflicts between population groups and religions, the virus of conflict will always be passed on throughout the world and every peaceful age will reveal itself to be nothing more than a period of transition between wars.
But who now has the power to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Probably only they themselves.
The Israelis and the Palestinians remind me of two blocks of ice. They have persuaded one another that they cannot coexist as peaceful neighbors.
So they will continue to irritate one another and to break apart as a result. Inflexible positions lead to confrontation. And confrontation leads to human suffering. So let’s make this ice melt!
There are real people on both sides. On both sides there are children, women and men. So I have decided to write to each member of the family. Six letters in all.
I do not speak your language. The language that I use is understood by every child and every mother and every father. So I am about to begin my first letter to the Israeli mothers, with the title:
Oh, you mothers of the Israelis.
© 2011 Hans-Jürgen John