This Sunday, Jan. 29, is the annual National Holocaust Remembrance Day in Amsterdam. During World War II, more than 100,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands and brutally murdered in camps such as Buchenwald, Sobibor and Auschwitz. Also in my apartment in the Jordaan, a Jewish father was betrayed, deported and murdered.
Over the past 20 years, I did trauma therapy in both Gaza and Israel and became more closely involved in the complex story of the Jewish and Palestinian people. In these 20 years, I came to love both peoples.
On the occasion of this Holocaust commemoration, I have written the following letter to the people of Israel. I know I will touch upon a very sensitive and painful subject, but let me try to give it words….
‘For two thousand years you had to wander the earth, abandoned from your homeland. You had to travel from country to country, sometimes welcomed, more often feared, hated or oppressed. The holocaust almost became the apocalyptic finale to your existence, but you survived and thrived, again, just as you had done in all the previous centuries.
Finally you came home to the land you always cherished and loved. ‘A land without people for a people without a land’, they said.
Unfortunately that was far beside the truth. In the two thousand years you were gone, life went on. The Palestinian people who lived there were a threat to your new existence. So you’d try to erase them, chase them away, as you were chased away yourself. You imprisoned them in small areas, like you were imprisoned in camps. You build walls around them with watchtowers, trying to forget about them, but each time the echo of your own pain is mirrored by their anguish. The amazing power, talents and gifts you have, were abused to oppress another people. Your fear of survival turned into anger towards the people who had no blame to what had happened to you. This week you even forbid the Palestinian flag. From being the victim you became, slowly but steadily, the perpetrator.
You fear for the enemy might seem real and justified, but it keeps you imprisoned in a cage you forged yourself. Out of this fear of survival you have created a strong male, patriarchal, militarised and oppressive society, in which the feminine wisdom of compassion, love and inclusiveness is forgotten. The Shechina seems exiled and abandoned.
These latest weeks you rise up against an ultra right government under the leadership of Netanyahu. You realise how your country is quickly losing its soul, how your leadership is disdainful of justice and human rights, changing more and more into an oppressive regime, one that thrives on the fear of her enemies, that divides people, that threatens people of different origin or faith.
Finally it seems you are remembering what you are here for: to fulfill the destiny of your people, to become of service to the world, to be free inside and outside, to rise up to the call of who you are and to become proud once again of your role in the world.
Know that your rising is the same as the people in Iran, who fight against an oppressive regime. And yes, know that your rising is the same as the rising of the Palestinian people, who fight against the same sort of oppression. They fight for freedom, and for the return to their land. They fight against the militarisation of your society, against the random shootings and killing and against the occupation of their homeland. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. It is in acknowledging this that your freedom lies. That you are brothers and sisters from the same land.
So rise, break free from the shackles that bind you, tear down the walls that divide you, the walls that make you blind to see another truth, another side to the same coin. In the very end, there is no one to blame. We all have created this story together, Muslims, Jews and Christians. You had to live with the scars, the blame and the fear, but don’t let that define you. Rise to a new dawn, one in which you will set a new standard of living on this earth: the cohabitation of all people, all races, all religions.
This is the promise and the fulfilment of Jerusalem, city of peace, and it is you who are her heralds and messengers. Only together with the Palestinian people you will be able to enter the holy of holiest, bow down to the sacred earth, and reach victory. Not in defeating each óther, but in defeating your own fear, anger and trauma.
Know that we are with you, not in contempt or judgement, but in deep reverence to the path you have walked, and to the task that lies on your shoulder: to transform hatred into love, revenge into compassion, and discord and duality into oneness.
I like to end this letter with a quote from the Lion King:
“You have forgotten who you are
and so have forgotten Me.
Look inside yourself.
You are more than what you have become.
You must take your place in the Circle of life.”
- Mufasa in The Lion King