What Israel Taught Me About TrustTuesday, September 19, 2017
Have you ever heard the expression, “I have no reason to trust you until proven otherwise?” That’s a phrase I have certainly grown up hearing and practicing in my own life. Living by that rule is sure to guard us from harm, and to protect our self-interest. Coincidentally, that was the first sentence uttered by the professor on my day back to graduate school this week. But for the first time, I found myself questioning that statement.
Spending a month in Israel with the Philos Leadership Institute, I heard from many speakers regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A common expression and theme was “unless given a reason to believe otherwise, I trust you.” I was stunned each time I heard the phrase. In a country surrounded by enemies and plagued by terrorism, how is it that so many people live by those words?
Toward the end of my travels, I spoke with Dr. Gadi Taub, an Israeli historian and writer. “Israelis claim no demands for Palestinians until they see peace, while Palestinians live by no peace until demands,” Taub said. In other words, Israelis want to trust the Palestinians but they can’t, while Palestinians won’t trust the Israelis until they’re given a state. Does this sound familiar? One side trusts the other but can’t, while the other side won’t trust until given a reason.
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle suggests that because humans live in groups, we are social beings and must live and function in societies. No man can live alone because we have the want and need to belong to something. The psychologist Abraham Maslow graphed a similar concept known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” The basic need starts at the bottom, but when each need is fulfilled a higher one is desired to form a pyramid. After safety is fulfilled, we desire love and belonging, which includes friendships, intimacy, and family. I would argue that to truly fulfil the human need of belonging and love, there must be a mutual trust between each other. To reap the benefits of belonging and love, it requires real work and effort. Just as to reap the benefits of becoming a better student you must tirelessly study. The trust will only be successful when both parties are equally committed.
I visited the Israeli settlement Arial and their National Leadership Development Center (ANLDC). In partnership with the American owned JH Ranch, the ANLDC combines outdoor learning with a strategic Biblical curriculum, providing a one-of-a kind experience for families and couples who visit the site. Each elevated and unique obstacle requires a group or partner to complete. I found myself, along with my group, balancing several feet high with a safety harness. The second I doubted my partner we were wobbling on the tightrope. To finish the course, we had to lean on each other. If one of us fell, we both fell. This is the perfect analogy to relationships, families, the workplace, and conflicts. We cannot get through life by ourselves, we need others to help us and to trust in us equally as much as we trust in them.
In secular, individualistic Western societies, the needs of the individual are more important than the needs of a group and the family. We see this example every day in America as divorce rates remain high. We view relationships solely as a method to provide happiness and emotional fulfillment for ourselves with minimal effort. We should be able to get out just as easy as we got in, especially if it is no longer fulfilling. Indeed, Americans no longer believe that the purpose of marriage is to have children. Now, 70% want “their spouse to make them happy.” Simply put, today we view others as an item rather than a person to be trusted and cherished. During my travels, I spent time learning about the typical Israeli family. In traditional American society, or in a collective Israeli society, they believe the family is more important than individual needs and happiness. The purpose of marriage is to create a safe and secure space for the nurture of child, extended family, and for society. For that reason, Israeli divorce is much more difficult and children grow up to be successful and stable citizens. By practicing trust, couples surrender their needs for the collective betterment of the family, thus eventually becoming happy themselves.
The strong American family and community is on a decline because no one wants to trust and lean on anyone. We see someone that is poor, sick, or their family is falling apart, so we brush it off because we assume the government will take care of it. No, we must take care of each other. On my trip, for every question answered, several new questions popped up. I don’t have a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the secret to a lasting family, or even building a strong community. But I do know somewhere it begins with trust. If we are constantly working toward trust, peace will follow. Setting aside our individual needs and leaning on each other, a solution will follow.