My sister is in Israel, a guest of the Swedish Theological Institute where she is studying liturgical music. Part of the program goal is to educate the participants not only about the religious sites of Jerusalem and Israel but also about the Arab-Israelite conflict.
I sent her a message on Facebook: Did you talk about the origin of the conflict? How the West agreed to the recreation of Israel on Palestinian land? Before that, how the Jews were forced out of that land by foreign conquest? Who has right to the land under our feet? In the Philippines, Christian Filipinos pushed Muslims out of their land leading to the conflict there. But did the Muslims own the land?
Possession of the land is at the heart of many of the wars fought throughout history. Even if humans did not progress from hunter-gatherers to farmers growing plants and animals, land would still be at the heart of conflict. We need land to live. At the fundamental level we need plants and other animals to get the oxygen and food we need just to maintain the metabolism vital to being alive. When we see that possession extends beyond land but to control, what we call politics when it involves groups of people we call nations and churches, we can see why conflict arises between individuals and peoples.
My conclusion is that if we can be impartial we might see there are no victims or aggressors. It’s human nature to covet and think something belongs to them whereas possession is really a legal invention to support the psychology of the self. Possessed of a self we feel, in James Cameron’s words, “entitled” to take what we think or feel we need. Laws are useful to mediate conflicting claims. When they work they make physical aggression unnecessary. Laws arise from rules we learn about human nature. If we understand how rules come about, we can legislate more wisely. But if we understand human nature, we won’t need rules to live peacefully We’re all aggressors when we don’t understand the nature of the self.
April and her colleagues are going out to eat. It’s Purim in Jerusalem and everybody is out celebrating, based on the account of the rescue of the Jewish people from slaughter as recorded in the Book of Esther. Our religions, literature, art, even culture itself documents the problem we have co-existing with each other on an increasingly small planet.