Today Karen and I drove over the river to Hastings-on-Hudson to participate in a presentation of the film, Beyond the Land, hosted by the Mishkan Ha’am synagogue. It was an intimate group of about thirty or so, mostly members of the synagogue. Beyond the Land (see its Facebook page) is a documentary about the EcoME community in the desert of the occupied West Bank near Jericho, and the discussion was led by three of the community’s members. EcoME was a one-of-a-kind community of Israelis and Palestinians living together. It recently closed after being in existence for eight years. The members used the tools of nonviolent communication to build their community. How fascinating, awe-inspiring, and refreshing!
When we were staying at Stony Point Center for a week in September while our bathroom was being done, we met the three presenters, an Israeli and two Palestinians. Goni, the Israeli of the ree, is one of the filmmakers and the director of the film, and was there working on editing it. She introduced herself to us at lunch one day and we bonded. What a brave, intelligent, interesting, and caring woman! We learned about her community—all brave souls—from her, and more from the internet links she sent us, and tonight we learned more.
I was quite moved by how impossible the situation has become for the Palestinians, a nightmare, and how difficult it was to build and sustain this unique community in such a difficult political environment, and how precious their life was together as they opened up to one another to share and listen and hear and to try to understand each other, and to love one another even when they couldn’t agree. It seems that most of the members of the communities were young people in their twenties and thirties.
As Ismail made clear tonight, there can be no “safety” and “security” in the measures the Israeli government is taking. There will only be safety and security when people learn to love. It sounds naive but our cynicism does not make it less true. To practice love is our only security.
These are important lessons for us in the United States where madness has completely taken over the administration of the White House and the members of the GOP, and now Trump’s choice has been rammed through to a seat on the Supreme Court. (How traumatizing has that been! How traumatizing it still is. But to say more would require another article.) Anyone who was moderate has been forced to take a side. But there is no safety and security in the hard-right tactics of this government either. It is all a lie and a sham and, if it doesn’t stop, we too will end up in disaster. Moreover, the combination of international movements of this kind is frightening in what they could portend.
Tonight Goni and the members of the EcoME community impressed on us by their honesty and vulnerability what it is that they have that makes their work possible. Our desire is also to build a convivial personalist community, and also in a place where any true community must be built in opposition to the political/cultural tidal wave of oppression and impersonalism. Their eight-year experiment was incomparably more challenging. And they are not done! EcoME may still find land to begin again.
Goni, Sabi and Ismail, we love you.