Monday night on "The Daily Show," Samantha Bee expressed her frustration with the "Mad-Lib" nature of reporting in the Middle East. She suggested a template that would include blanks for the number of hostages, concerned foreign dignitaries, and pop culture references. Switch "Doctor Kissinger" with "Secretary Rice," and you've got the updated version. The report was titled "Mid-East Crisis: Day 9,265."
I laughed until I cried. Then again, it may have been hard to determine exactly where one stopped and the other began. I had the same essential response as Ms. Bee when I went out to the mailbox yesterday to retrieve this week's issue of Time magazine. Looking at the cover, I found myself flashing back on dozens of other magazine covers that promised to help me understand why this part of the world has been and continues to be embroiled in conflict for recorded history. Peace initiatives and cease fires are the exceptions that prove the rule of war. If I were going to make dire predictions about the end of the world, why wouldn't I pick the Middle East for the boiling point?
In sixth grade we had a student teacher in our class. His name was Jeff Franklin. He created a unit to help us understand the War In The Middle East. He had us prepare questions for a press conference with Israel's Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan (he wore an eye patch for his role). After that, he made an appearance as Anwar Sadat, giving the Egyptian point of view. This was 1973. At eleven years old, I came away with the feeling of hopelessness, and only the vaguest notion of how deep the lines in the sand had been drawn.
Here we are in 2006. The story continues. After six years of relative peace, the missiles, bombs and bullets are flying again.
"Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf and nothing can bridge it... We, as a nation, want this country to be ours: the Arabs, as a country want this country to be theirs." - David Ben-Gurion, June 1919
Sadly, maybe it's not that hard to understand at all.