If you want a glimpse into the potential role intersectionality of people, politics, religions and belief can play in helping bridge differences, spend some time in Israel.
I was one of a dozen lobbyists, elected leaders and others from the U.S. who toured Israel on a week long trip in July arranged by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Israel Education Foundation, It was an eye-opening journey through modern and historic times and the conflicts that span the ages, and represented a desire to find common ground.
I felt the possibilities as we toured the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on rite Mount, and prayed with Brazilian Christians beside the Sea of Galilee. I felt it as we walked the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall, where I tucked a hand-written note in the cracks between its stones.
We spent lime with Ethiopian Jews, whose own exodus is a remarkable tale, and shared Shabbat dinner at the home of Jill and Ambassador Daniel Meron. who welcomed us in a tradition held among family and friends dating back thousands of years. Being a born-again Christian daughter of a pastor. my baptism in the River Jordan where Jesus was said to have been baptized left me spiritually renewed. I truly felt the spirit of “He Lives” as 1 walked ground sacred to Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike.
I saw the promise of hope contained in the Bible come to life before my eyes.
So steeped in religious significance, you’re left to wonder how conflict can exist in such a place. Yet, this was more than a tourist excursion, and geopolitics were central speaking points on the agenda.
It was clear as we crossed lire border, passports in hand, to visit Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Territories, and as we talked with journalists who have covered the conflict. When we drove north to the Golan Heights, we saw Hezbollah soldiers in the distance across the border with Syria. As we visited the south, we saw Gaza, from where a week after our return, rockets would rain down on the surrounding Jewish communities.
It was these visits that helped me realize the challenges and threats Israel faces daily, as well as the benefits they enjoy.
To be sure, they have internal conflict. The Israeli Knesset, or legislative body, has dozens of individual parties, from far right to far left. Think having two major parties and several factions is hard to navigate politically here in the U.S.? It seems a miracle Israelis can build coalitions and craft compromises.
But they do. I suspect it falls back on the cultural, spiritual and practical intersectionality they live with day-to-day. Simply put. they must make it work.
I’m not naive. I know the conflicts there are deep and entrenched; no one-week tour of any country will make me an expert.
Through it all, however, I saw the breadth of tolerance and an honest desire for peace.
In America, we should yearn to learn from this intersection silty of peoples. As lobbyists, my peers and I live and work at the intersection of polities and society. Currently in America, we’re struggling to find our path through the convergence of government, race and religion. Embracing our shared past must become an imperative if we arc to work toward what will be our shared future.
Yolanda Cash Johnson is a state-level lobbyist with Becker Law. She represents HBCUs, the Urban League and municipalities. Learn mare at www. beckerlawyers.com