"Oppressed people," writes author Deb Reich, "are not only constrained from fully exercising their basic rights. They have also been prevented from making the unique and important contribution that only they can make...to the world's wellbeing."
With these words Reich ushers us into a new way of looking at people, of dealing with conflict and disunity—into a beautiful new world in which the paradigm switches from "us against them" to a more simple, useful, and helpful one of "us + them = all of us." Or, as she says, a world in which there are No More Enemies—only people with differing views and beliefs who, if they work together instead of harboring hatred and fear of the "other," can improve their own lives, and, by extension, society at large.
Deb Reich knows about conflict. A Jewish woman born and raised in America, she has lived in Israel/Palestine for over thirty years, peacefully and steadfastly working towards finding a resolution for the conflict there which would be acceptable to all parties. Her proposed resolution? Simple. No More Enemies!
The book is divided into four sections, each containing well-written, often humorous, sometimes poignant, essays and stories. Her conversational style of writing makes the reader feel as if she is sitting down with a witty, passionate, new friend.
The first section outlines the foundational ideas of the No More Enemies (NME) paradigm.
The second section directly applies these theories to the situation in Palestine/Israel.
In the third, Reich gifts us with a series of snapshots into her life and the lives of members of the vibrant Arab community in which she lived for several years. This section really spoke to me, having experienced being "other" in many forms: as a Muslim in America, and now as an American in Yemen. I have found that the best way to diffuse some of the fear and hatred of others is to allow them to see you as simply a person. This section strongly puts this message across. The fourth section, which I found to be invaluable, takes all the ideas presented in the book and tells you how to apply them in your life, right now.
Reich's informal and easy manner of writing engages the reader immediately. She shows a deep understanding of the situation in Palestine/Israel, as well as the wider view of why we live in a world which seems so deeply committed to war and hatred between different factions. The first step to resolving this, according to Reich, is to stop seeing people as our enemies. Black and white. Jew and Muslim and Christian and Pagan. My tribe and your tribe. Instead, realize that each member of that group that we designate as "enemy" has the potential to contribute to the betterment of society and the world at large. We can view the "enemies paradigm" as a design issue, rather than primarily a moral or political one, says Reich. By doing this, we shift our perception of those we've viewed as our "enemies" so that they emerge as potential partners rather than objects of fear and hatred. "The people are just people," she says. "(They) can't be the problem—they're just folks. So if the problem is not the people, it must be the paradigm."
And the way to shift that paradigm into the NME world-view? Start with yourself. That's where the last section of essays comes in, as the reader creates a physical "toolbox." Reich recaps the ideas presented in section one, suggesting actual items to be placed in a container to assist the NME practitioner to implement each idea. The first item placed inside? A mirror—because, of course, you are own worst enemy. You have to change yourself before you can possibly affect a change in others.
Reich engagingly weaves theory with fact, ideas with implementation, dreams with possible reality. Can NME change the world? I don't know—the machinery of governments and big business seems to be too powerful, too set in a single destructive direction. Reich's program, however, reminds me of the three principles of Permaculture: care for the earth, care for people, share the wealth. Start small, with your patch of land, yourself, your family, your community—then reach out to others in a caring and sharing attitude. Maybe, just maybe, we can change the world.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine. She has lived in New York, Wadi Ara, Abu Ghosh, Karkur, Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, among other places. Visit her website.
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