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Eyesight for Israel’s Blind

PARIS – To find a glimmer of hope on the Israel-Palestine question has become difficult, if not impossible. Most Israelis now believe that a peaceful solution will not come in their generation. As for the Palestinians, the political stalemate, and ongoing Israeli occupation, has led to radicalization: if they cannot have “something,” they want it all.

And many believe that whatever their weakness today, time is on the Palestinians’ side. Even the most moderate Palestinians now reject Israeli leftists’ offers of help in terms of human support against the actions of Israeli settlers or police. The political dialogue between moderates of both camps is mostly dead, and personal contact has become minimal. In the streets of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians give the impression of deliberately trying not to see each other.

Moreover, as Israel increasingly resembles a successful developed country, its Jewish citizens tend to ignore its Arab citizens, just as the rich elsewhere often do not see the poor in their midst. But, unlike the poor in many emerging and developed countries, who can hope for social mobility, Israeli Arabs are second-class citizens, even if their living standards remain higher than those of most Arabs in the region. As we know from Deuteronomy, “Man does not live by bread alone.”

This distrustful ignorance of the other can be found everywhere in Israel. Or almost everywhere, for there is a place that escapes this reality: the hospital. Because of an urgent eye problem upon my arrival in Israel in late June, I had to spend seven hours in the ophthalmology department of the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem, which is the main center of treatment, teaching, and research in Jerusalem.