29 Aug Seeds of hope and words of peace not bullets and blood.
A businessman once told me that the secret to his success in delivering solutions where those before him had only found intractable problems was ‘to focus on what all parties could agree on and build from there.’
I recalled his words as I stood on top of the Golan Heights this week at the Syria/Israeli border listening to bombs and gunfire and watching plumes of smoke rise to the heavens as homes and towns were crushed to the earth.
The soldier and orthopaedic surgeon who was accompanying me pointed to the Al Qaeda troops and Syrian Government forces fighting below. There’d been lots of bomb blasts today, so he’d be working late into the night. ‘For it’s only after nightfall that family members can bring their loved ones to the border to get medical attention. It can’t be done during the day as they’d be shot as traitors and we’d be shot as enemies.’
Is that the hypocrisy of war or the desperation of it? You can’t blame parents for wanting to get their child help. Bringing critically injured family members to somewhere that can save them, even if it is enemy territory, makes sense. As for the doctors who provide treatment, there’s dangers, snipers and suicide bombers, but their overriding aim is to save lives, whoever they are. And after all I’d seen and heard, these acts of selfless kindness filled me with hope.
I’ve grown up watching such news coverage on the TV but nothing prepares you for the complexity of the situation and the proximity of the countries and people caught up in war, Lebanon, Israel, Syria only a few miles apart. Like some ancient gods standing on a mythical hill we watched people fighting below, we were unable to deliver a thunderbolt to change the course of history, intervene with a single act that would stop the fury and fighting. Work had to be done at ground level and these daily acts of medical kindness were I hope planting seeds for a better future. There were bigger scale initiatives happening on the ground too, I visited a new Palestinian city, Rawabi, that was being built in the West Bank, 40,000 homes, a 15,000 stadium, shops, jobs and magnificent architecture – all reaching out to offer a new start, a new kind of future.
Politicians have a big part to play too. Listening to the members I met from Fatah, Likud, Zionist Union and independents, never had the businessman’s words been truer – the journey to a deal can only really begin by people focusing on what they can agree on then working from there. The past can’t be changed but a future can be shaped. Let’s hope today’s politicians can reach for a future and not lean back to the feuding past.