Perhaps we need to look at the conflict with fresh eyes. For Jewish Israelis, the Biblical relation with the land of their forefathers is crucial to why they’re there. But in his controversial book “The Invention of the Jewish People,” Shlomo Sand argues that Judaism used to be a proselytizing religion like Christianity or Islam, and that consequently many of today’s Jewish Israelis are descendants of converts, without an ancestral link to Eretz-Israel. Inversely, many of the Palestinians may just be the descendants of the large Jewish community who remained to toil the land, even after the destruction of the Temple and the suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt in the first and second centuries, respectively — and who gradually converted to Islam in the centuries after the Arab conquest.
These are highly controversial and extremely speculative notions, but they highlight an important underlying truth: Israeli Jews and Palestinians have much in common. Maybe — just maybe — one day the realization will dawn that the complicated, contested and highly lethal border between Palestinians and Israelis is separating brothers from brothers, and sisters from sisters.
So should the fence be torn down, the border erased? Considering the level of animosity on either side toward the other, arriving at a one-state solution would be nothing short of miraculous, even by Holy Land standards. But miracles are not only unlikely, they’re not always a good idea. The Holy Land has taught us some harsh truths about human nature: brotherhood does not necessarily imply brotherly love, and sometimes, as in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, it leads to its exact opposite — fratricide.
Until the day when the lamb will lie down with the lion and the lamb will live to tell it, only an equitable borderline between them will prevent carnage. Good borders, as an instrument of civil commerce between nations, are a godsend — literally: the Romans made yearly sacrifices to the god Terminus, offering him wine, honey and blood at boundary stones, thus hallowing the borderlines they marked. “Only when borders disappear,” remarks Régis Debray in his “Éloge des frontières,” “does the need arise to construct walls.”