The day following our glorious Dignity Day, Jordan event, my friend and fellow YGL Pekka Himanen and I decided to venture out to Israel. What we got in return was the trip, and experience, of a lifetime. That means both good and bad. Read on....
Coming from the World Economic Forum regional meeting for the Middle East in Jordan, Pekka and I could have taken advantage of the VIP program that expedites you through the Jordanian to Israel border control process, but instead we decided to do what everyone else must, and what an experience THAT was... Wow, is all I can say now.
We arrived at the border crossing, on the Jordanian side, around 9am in the morning, thinking that the process of crossing from Jordan to Israel should take no more than 30 minutes. After all, it was only 3 miles from point to point, right? You would think. Well, 9 check points and 5 hours later, we finally made it into Israel and could not have been more shocked by the process we, and others, were subjected too. And once in Israel, and later as we traveled through Palestine, the shocking experiences just continued to come our way.
I remember us walking into a restaurant run by Jews for lunch in downtown Jerusalem, and for the first time ever in my life, being scan checked for weapons -- at the entrance of the restaurant! Or standing at an observatory sight in Jerusalem and having a Palestinian man get angry over what seemed like nothing, and then kick my friend Pekka, calling us "Jews" and "Jew lovers," amongst other choice names. I am happy to say that we later converted this young man into a friend, or at least no longer our foe, but it took us coming back to the scene of the original offense, and reaching out to him once again, even though it was the last thing we thought we would ever do, a here one hour earlier. I am sure it was the last thing he expected either.
The day wore on, and we experienced the amazing sights and sounds of Jerusalem, including the route that Jesus rode his white Donkey, and the most amazing site of them all, the place where Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Wow, is all that I can say. Both Pekka and I were without words, on more than one occasion on this amazing day.
As we prepared to leave Israel and Palestine, returning across the border to Jordan, the feeling that was left with both Pekka and I was that no one seemed to talk with each other (anymore), but rather past each other.
What we mean here, is that our Israeli friends seemed to talk to and about Palestinians, but they didn't see them, and they didn't seem to listen either.
And our Palestinian friends seemed to likewise talk to and about our Israeli friends, but they too didn't see them either, nor did they listen.
In both cases, individuals seemed to have already made up their minds about the (intent and nature of the) other, and worse, there seemed to be little hope that a peaceful resolution existed, outside of one of the two leaving the region.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan.
...But then we returned to Jordan, and our driver, a Jordanian, talked so passionately and positively about the peace (agreement) between Jordan and Israel, and the friendship and developing relationship that continues to nurture and develop between these two nations, and their people.
And so, in the end Pekka and I found hope in the future of Israel and Palestine, by witnessing first hand the peace, and relative prosperity that now exists between Israel and Jordan.
That what Rwanda, South Africa and Jordan all have in common, is that in 1994 each of these nations made a choice; to move from war and violence, to peace and reconciliation. The result, today, is that each of these unique nation-states exist in a sustained spirit of peace, hope and promise, recognizing that "prosperity is the best partner to peace."
Rainbows, after storms. You cannot have a rainbow without a storm first.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant