The gathering featured almost every stereotype of the hippie known to man. There was finger painting, hand-holding, singing, acoustic-guitar playing, vague exhortations to love and peace...and plenty of photographers to take pictures of it all. The sight of the two event organizers hugging, one obviously a Muslim and the other obviously a Jew, was an especially irresistible photo op. Much like a well-constructed Facebook photo album makes a party seem more epic and memorable than it really was, I'm guessing that these photos will serve the same purpose in inflating the effectiveness and size of the event.
(Prepare for a jarring shift to present tense...)
While I sit there placidly munching a slice of watermelon, an internal, cerebral battle is taking place; the cynic (who made an appearance in the previous paragraph) is on the attack. The cynic believes that events like these are utterly pointless exercises in futility, feel-good orgies of self-congratulation full of people afraid to do actual work. The cynic points to the two Palestinian boys looking puzzledly downward at the white people on their hands and knees dipping their hands in paint and pressing them to a cloth. The boys are probably wondering what this will do to take away the checkpoints, the humiliation, and the deprivation.
The cynic admittedly has a point, and he used to handily win battles like these.
But another part of me, the idealist, senses the genuine goodness in the air, even if it is expressed in corny sing-alongs and cliché phrases. The idealist understands that a true solution to the conflict will ultimately happen in the hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis, not well-educated internationals. In other words, peace cannot be imposed from outside. And so little by little, completely apolitical demonstrations of affection and acceptance will chisel away at the hardened shells of bitterness and contempt between the two peoples.
Let's not be fooled, though: years of such chiseling can be undone by one well-placed bomb blast or home demolition. Enter political activism...