REALIZING THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM
The Academy of Jerusalem Monographs - #3 March 95
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The Middle East Peace Process is repeatedly running aground because it fallaciously treats the conflict as merely political and territorial, whereas the source of the strife is cultural, religious, and psychological. These latter schisms reach crisis proportions on the issue of Jerusalem, which Israeli peacemakers insist on postponing until the final stage of the negotiations, but which both Jews and Arabs continually evoke as their primary goal and bottom line. This paper contends that Jerusalem, rather than being the powder keg that can explode the whole Peace Process, is in fact the key for the long-term and complete solution to the Middle East conflict.
An equally grave issue is the survival of Zionism, and of ideology altogether, among Israeli Jews. This, more than the external threat, is the ultimate danger to Israel's survival. The contingencies of the past hundred years have ossified Zionist thinking and tied it to the narrow mold of "Political Zionism," which the current conclusion of the political process has made no longer relevant.
Yet, while Zionism has become ossified through the Arab-Israeli struggle, the world has changed greatly. Communism has disappeared, religious fundamentalism has increased, nationalism has revived in a threatening way, and the ecological threat has grown, stimulating a new world ideology, combined, in the more affluent places, with a "New Age" ideology. This paper shows that all these developments have a profound meaning for Zionism, calling for a new type of "Cultural Zionism," or literally, "Spiritual Zionism," as a leading global ideology, with Jerusalem at its center.
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2. The Problem
Rationalists portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as a mere territorial struggle to which "land for peace" transactions can bring a settlement. That it is, in fact, a cultural-religious battle should be obvious by the level of attachment that the majority of the Jewish population has for various pieces of territory. The issue of land sanctity, which only a tiny percentage of the Israeli population attributed to the expanses of Sinai, has become a major rallying cry for retaining "the territories," and reaches a fever pitch in discussing Jerusalem. This issue has to be admitted, and it thus becomes apparent that symbolic factors are as important as economic or territorial factors. Hence, the resolution of the conflict demands symbolic transactions and construction, and especially ideological reorientations.
When we say that the conflict is too complex or irrational, this may mean that we find ourselves incapable of seeing solutions from our present perspective or even of viewing the problem as a whole. We are not detached observers; rather we identify with some party to the problem. This identification keeps us at a level in which metasystemic observations and overall perspectives cannot be gained.
A solution to this conundrum would be the application of Conversation Theory, which is a system-theoretic perspective which includes a rigorous and comprehensive dialogical methodology. Conversation Theory specifies requisites for initiating and maintaining a conversation that leads to understandings between two parties. This will be discussed in detail below.
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3. Peace-Making and Human Reconstruction
An examination of the words for peace used in different languages reveals subtle but profound differences in meaning. The English word "peace" is a homonym of "piece" and is more likely to be associated with a piecemeal approach to peacemaking and to regarding peace as merely the cessation of hostilities. The Semitic words "Shalom" and "Salaam," on the other hand, have the connotations of "whole" (shalem in Hebrew) and of contact with the holy, thus of a "holistic peace."
The partial or piecemeal approach to peace-making was forcefully introduced to the Middle East by Henry Kissinger. This is the approach that passes under the more dignified name of "the rational approach." In practice it tries to avoid the tangled issues of culture, ideology, or religion and to isolate areas where bargaining can take place and obvious interests can be reconciled. It brought results and set the stage for the Camp David accord.
Yet this approach has not changed the cultural attitudes. Even its greatest achievement, the Camp David accord, brought but a "cold peace" between Israel and Egypt. Meanwhile growing religious fundamentalism, which the piecemeal approach has no answer to, has increased the hatred and the conflict. The "peacemeal" approach does not appear effective against systemic syndromes.
The term "Comprehensive Peace" is much used in discussions of the Middle East as the contrast to piecemeal peace. But it is used only in the political sense of all the Arab parties dealing with Israel at once, rather than by separate agreements. It does not comprise the psychological, cultural and religious aspects of peace, nor even the intrinsic meaning of "comprehensive"-- in the sense of "involving comprehension," namely understanding. To signify the inclusion of these factors, we may use the term "Holistic Peace." "Holistic Peace" entails the "Shalom" or "Salaam" that people aspire to as an ideal, and connotes visions of wholeness, even holiness, as well as health and healing, rather than peace as a grim necessity conceded to by still hostile parties.
There is a contemporary intellectual revulsion from such idealism issuing from the disasters of Nazism and communism. But other new intellectual developments view holism as feasible and necessary. We shall try here to view wholes as complex rather than unitary entities, applying to healing processes and to "redemptive scenarios." This approach entails inducing psychological change and the social diffusion of the new images.
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Jewish philosophers-theologians such as Rosenzweig, Buber, and Heschel, characterized the process of dialogue as basic for the Jewish theology and worldview. We may thus explore this mode as a way of bringing Zionism out of its present isolation and reorienting it to become a participant in, and an initiator of, some of the intercultural dialogues that are vital for the future of humankind: not only the Arab-Jewish dialogue and the Israeli-World Jewry dialogue, but also the Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Moslem dialogues and even the "Whole Earth Dialogue" of all humankind and the (living) Earth. There is thus a need for a general cultural orientation for sustaining dialogues and for a methodology towards learning the art of fruitful conversation. Notwithstanding Buber's important work on dialogical philosophy and on education, he did not succeed in making remedial applications.
Cybernetician Gordon Pask's "Conversation Theory" (Pask 1975, 1976) is a rigorous and comprehensive conversational (thus "dialogical") methodology which specifies requisites for initiating and maintaining a conversation that leads to understandings between two individuals, and its general systemic construction allows generalizations to inter-cultural (symbolic) interactions.
Conversation Theory (hence CT) regards the cognitive domain --personal or cultural -- as stratified into concepts of different logical levels. Communications between individuals are thus conducted on several logical levels and require different types of language. People must use conversational languages that refer to self and to others in order to talk about their concepts and to explain them. People often live in a conventional world of agreements, but they have the potential of also reaching understandings, which are on a higher level. Understandings require answering "why" questions and producing explanations of one's own and of the other's explanations. In the process, the conversing parties must use "self" and "other" references to reach understandings, and thus must engage in "I-You," not just "I-It," transactions.
The following suggestions are extensions of CT. We claim that the cultural, meta-linguistic explanations of one's own and other cultures are, and must be, given by their relevant "myths." We also claim that full conversations between cultures are possible, and further, that such successful conversations can breed cultural innovations that are consistent with the current traditions and myths of the culture.
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3.2 Ideological Reorientation and Symbolic Construction
The appeal of religions and ideologies is that they promise contact with eternal, immutable principles as shelter against the relativistic confusion of everyday existence. Yet they must change to survive and to be pertinent in evolving situations. This conflict is overcome through the use of symbols as the "topic names" of an ideology-cum-mythology. Symbols can be understood as cognitive keys that can organize and condense whole worldviews into single, albeit many-valued, references. For example, traditional Judaism treats every word, even every letter, of the written Torah as a sacred symbol that has many additional and hidden meanings. From these symbols have evolved two additional canonical scriptures, the Talmud and the Zohar, which contain rulings which are quite new in terms of social practice.
We thus claim that symbols provide the entry points for the reorientation of ideologies and that ideological reorientation would require work of "Symbolic Construction" and the synthesis of cultural symbols. There is to date hardly any science on the synthesis of cultural symbols, but CT could give a framework for such work (Hayut-Man, 1981). One possible object of such study is the "Redemptive Scenarios" of various cultures (Eg. Judaism's many versions of how the Messiah will come, Christianity's versions of the Second Coming, Buddhism's concept of the Bodhisatva). "Redemptive Scenarios" combine topics pertaining to current existential problems with the symbolic topics which describe the Redemption according to pertinent cultural traditions and myths. It is possible to identify common symbolic elements of "the Redemption" of parties which are otherwise in conflict. These symbolic goals can then be posited as the elements for social discourse by the conflicting parties. Drawing such Redemptive Scenarios is work for the pioneers of the new Zionism discussed here, but after these pioneers reach their innovative understandings, their insights can be reproduced by suitable media for more general interest. Such a pioneering effort for a cultural elite needs to be done in a way that can secure the reproduction of its insights by the public.
The insights from CT could be applied to make the occasional sincere dialogues which do take place in the Middle East into reproducible understandings that can be experienced by wider publics. They can be used to help transfer the experiences of people who have "passed over" (Dunne, 1972) from their culture to another one and then back again, to the general population. There are still likely to be large gaps, especially where there are deep-seated obstacles to dialogue. These might be filled through dramatists' skills and the employment of projective techniques with special individuals and groups to explore the conceptual worlds of Israeli and Arab volunteers.
The information gleaned from the various sources could then be analyzed and carefully resynthesized to process the images, situations, and understandings into topics that would be assembled into coherent structures, much more comprehensive than the cognition of any particular individual. From the processed protocols of fruitful conversations, lessons could be deduced on the circumstances under which mutual understanding is facilitated, on enhancing capabilities for inter-cultural conversation, and on designing programs for training people to overcome cultural incompatibilities. With these lessons, educators, dramatists and game designers could exploit the dramatic potential of the original encounter material and build appropriate conversational domains, such as by movies, dramatic productions for stage or touring groups, role-playing games, information structures for workshops, etc. The resulting educational/entertainment materials would allow society-wide learning and experience, becoming media for teaching individuals the limitations of their current identifications and techniques for selecting their paths towards mutual understandings.
We may cite another worthwhile generalization from CT applied to modern societies. We can say that cities have been the Language-Processors in which civilization was embodied and has evolved. Their concrete structures carry symbolic messages for their populations and embody their cultural values, while their layouts channel social transactions. Nowadays civilization is rapidly changing by being embodied in emerging communications and computation media, but this is happening quite haphazardly, in the manner criticized by Buber, by increasing "I-It" communications and substituting them for "I-You" communications. There is, however, an archetypal image, a symbol of a city as the place of learning and encounter, even of revelation: Jerusalem and the Heavenly Jerusalem. This could be the remedy for these ills of modern civilization.
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