Arava Institute’s Rabbi Michael Cohen calls for bridges, not barriers

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By allmepadmin / June 6 2018

In a piece for the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Michael Cohen of ALLMEP member Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, calls for creating bridges between Israelis and Palestinians instead of barriers.

As a young boy growing up in the region, Cohen experienced the separation between Jews and Arabs. This distance was created by both physical and psychological walls. Such segregation has bred conflict, so, as a solution, Cohen believes in the power of building bridges between the two peoples.

Cohen writes of the walls that both Israelis and Palestinians have built up. From his own life, he pulls memories of deep confusion over why such walls were built. He specifically recalls the anti-sniper walls that were created to reduce the Jordanian’s ability to shoot at Israeli citizens. Now, 50 years on, such walls are still being built.

To illustrate how such barriers cross cultural lines, Cohen discusses the use of fences in sayings in Germany, Japan, Norway, and even in the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost. The meaning of this word throughout history has evoked an understanding of where properties lie and who owns what land. Such fences are also built to keep people out, to protect against danger, or to imprison.

But, like so many other social contracts, Cohen writes that fences are much more complex than they may seem. He writes that barriers not only impact the physical world, instead they also create social and psychological distance between people. Such distance exacerbates conflict, which is evidenced in the relationship between Jews and Arabs.

In relation to today’s reality, Cohen addresses the “Great March of Return” that the Palestinians have engaged in along the Gaza fence. Israelis have killed more than 100 Palestinians and wounded over 7,000 Palestinians in response to this campaign. He believes that such violence has been built up from years of walls and massive separation between the peoples.

Cohen highlights the findings of Ned Lazarus in his study “A Future for Israeli – Palestinian Peacebuilding” to call for the power in bridging barriers on the path toward peace. Trust, empathy, reconciliation, and much more can be found through connection instead of trying to live on different sides of walls.

In his piece for the Jerusalem Post, Cohen states:

We’ve tried barriers. Now it is time to try bridges – to lessen the distance and create healthier forms of contact – so that a Muhammad and a Michael can meet and have a chance to lessen the otherness of the other, and end the ongoing dance of death.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Arava Institute’s Rabbi Michael Cohen calls for bridges, not barriers

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