A month has passed since HopeWays first appeared on the Web, and to my utter surprise, the new site was received with much public interest. There are innumerable sites on the Internet, both old and new, and just a few of them receive the attention they deserve. So how come our site was noticed by so many? The answer is unlikely to be found in a superior marketing strategy (which we don't have), nor in a wealth of breathtaking media effects (from which our humble website is very far removed). I should like to hope that our site addresses a genuine public need. The feedback that we keep receiving points at the possibility that many may be seeking something new.
The messages that we have been receiving may also point at a real problem. Many visitors who wrote to us engaged in a heated debate about the line that we should adopt. Some accused us of being too "right-wing" while others complained about our "left-wing" editorial policy. Both are still trying to pull us closer to their own preferences.
Good. We may have succeeded in slightly confusing the conventional divisions. This is really our first goal.
For the last 35 years, our society has been deeply immersed in a dispute between "right" and "left". We chant the same slogans, dig into the same trenches, storm the same ghosts. Israeli society is torn along three or four lines, which are often overlapping: Right versus Left, Ashkenazi Jews versus Oriental ones, Orthodox Jews versus Secularists and perhaps Arabs versus Jews. What has this rift given us? Have we made any progress toward a real solution in any of these fields?
And yes, throughout this period we also heard "centrist" tunes. Most of these have appeared to offer obscure compromises between the two extremes, or simply evade the issues. Thus, most Israelis regard the "center" as a fairly poor option.
The time may have come for us to grow up. The futile attempts to force views on others, even through persuasive reasoning, have not produced any political, economic, social or cultural solutions. The more energies we invest in debating, the more our wheels dig into the mud.
Neither "right" nor "left" offer viable solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both ways have been tried: an actual creeping annexation, as well as political concessions along the lines of the "land for peace" formula. Is it not clear that both methods have failed in reality?
The empty slogans that we keep reciting (with international diplomatic circles following our lead), may serve entirely different needs: the political debate in Israel has served as a disguise for a deep clash between rival social, cultural and ideological identities. We sometimes hear individuals contradicting their own arguments, only to exhibit loyalty to one "camp" or another.
Is it not the time to escape this trap? Should Israeli society, particularly its political system, learn to grant real liberty to all of Israel's communities, we may not need the security-political debate to express ourselves socially and spiritually. We may learn to define our various identities in positive terms, rather than in terms of objecting to others. Our 'Social Reforms' section attempts to sketch some ideas in this direction.
We also wish to address the Arab-Israeli issue. We often hear the claim: "So what is the alternative?" - implying that there is no other option between a complete withdrawal and an eternal bloodshed. In our 'Peace Voices' section we wish to say: "There are many alternatives, not just one! None of them has been tested in reality yet, whereas the two old ways have been tried and drowned in rivers of blood and tears!"
HopeWays' editorial board is not homogeneously composed. A large portion of the ideas we publish (including each editorial in this section) are NOT acceptable to one or more of the editors. But they express an important value, as they show how we can all apply some creative thinking, seek new solutions and trigger a serious public discussion on the major issues of our time. Such discussions are held in our 'Dialogue Corner'.
Individuals who feel powerless when faced with what appears to be insoluble situations, may sink into depression or even worse. We believe that societies too may develop a similar dangerous syndrome. A sense of hope, of having potential alternatives, is not a luxury but a real existential need. We believe that innovative, sincere and honorable ideas may provide us with the hope we require for our very survival.
Can we succeed in our quest? Not alone! We need your active participation in both dialogues and creative activities!
Ehud Tokatly, 20/August/2003