A permanent ceasefire in Gaza can spark a peaceful revolution

During my pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine last week, I listened deeply to multiple perspectives of Palestinians and Israelis living in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Israel. The painful root cause of this intractable conflict—a tsunami of trauma, hate and fear— is drowning a sense of the common humanity of two peoples living on one land. At the same time, I witnessed the personal love each person has for their people and each have for their shared land. My greatest hope is that when this tragic violent phase of the crisis ends, a permanent ceasefire will ignite the spark of a love-centered peaceful revolution to create a new reality where the land will be for all to live in with justice and peace.

One evening in East Jerusalem, I met a passionate 26-year-old Palestinian man whose family has lived in Palestine for centuries. He shared the intergenerational pain and suffering his family experienced during the last 100 years, under the systematic oppression of British colonial rule followed by the Zionist nation state. This young man shared the story of his grandmother being violently expelled from her family home in Jaffa during the 1948 Nakba catastrophic expulsion. He shared how his Palestinian family members are treated as second class citizens in a crushing caste system enforced harshly by the state of Israel, and how it occupies every aspect of his life and mind. 

The intensification of Palestinian oppression since Oct. 7 includes the expulsion, intentional starvation and murderous actions underway in and around Gaza. Less understood is the horrendous escalation of violence in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Random and more frequent raids are occurring on himself and his community, leading to harassment, demolition of homes, land confiscation, arrest, and torture by police, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and violent Jewish settlers—all who seem intent on evicting all Palestinians from the ancient biblical lands. West Bank Palestinians are too fearful to go outside to plow their fields. The closing of borders is crushing the economy and separating families, leaving West Bank Palestinians struggling to feed themselves.

A January 2024 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the state of Israel to implement“immediate and effective measures”to protect Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip from the risk of genocide. Since then, many, but not all West Bank Palestinians fear they may be next on the list for decimation and expulsion, once the IDF completes its actions in Gaza. 

I was rattled and deeply saddened by this intelligent and loving young man’s tragic resignation to inevitable cycles of violence. He explained that young people believe war is the only way to defend their dignity and human rights as he painfully shared how most Israelis refuse to see the oppression underway, leaving them compliant and complicit with Israel which dominates with a comfortable arrogance. 

I also met a middle-aged Israeli woman living in Jerusalem who works to build peace with Palestinians. She shared that she is stuck in a hyper-traumatized state—as if they are reliving the Oct. 7 Hamas barbaric slaughter of Israelis and the ongoing hostage crisis each and every day. They are living in fear that a second Holocaust could occur as Hamas threatens more murderous raids, and Iran’s recent direct attack on Jerusalem with 390 missiles and drones, are shattering any true sense of security through Israel. Then I met a middle-aged Israeli man in Tel Aviv who denied any oppression was underway and shockingly called all Palestinians two-legged Satans. He then shared the long history of terrorist events against the Jewish people in his city. 

The U.N. and many international humanitarian organizations are confirming a famine is underway in northern Gaza. As the IDF prepares a crushing onslaught in southern Gaza, this famine may deepen and expand. On the last days of my pilgrimage I joined an international delegation of rabbis and activists from the United States and Israel. We approached the Erez border crossing as we attempted to deliver urgently needed food aid to children and families in Gaza. As I directly faced the Israeli police and IDF, I was able to transform my intense fear and grief into love so I could pray for peace and freedom for all. I recalled Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. words: “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

Meeting so many love-filled Israelis and Palestinians who are unifying for peace and justice through grassroots cooperation and standing together to build a people’s peace movement leaves me optimistic. A miracle is possible as Palestinians and Israelis are conceptualizing A Land for All. They envision a confederation of two sovereign states in a common homeland, to replace Zionist nation state policy of separation and segregation. This new approach can unlock new solutions on the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli settlements, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and open the borders between two states. 

People in Israel/Palestine and around the world are rising in peaceful revolutions to ensure food aid gets to the starving people in Gaza, to realize an end to the siege of Gaza, an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the release of all hostages and the full exchange of prisoners, and an end to the occupation and systemic subjugation of Palestinians. Peacemakers from all sides of this conflict can manifest a new vision of peaceful co-existence, where people can build trust, heal, repair and co-create a new reality. 

Rabbi Dr. Paul Zeitz is author of “Revolutionary Optimism: 7 Steps for Living as a Love-Centered Activist” and member of Rabbis for Ceasefire.

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