I started this journey proposing the necessity of holding different ideas in one’s mind at the same time in order to better understand a situation and support a solution. This is particularly case for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and efforts to realize a two-state Solution.

After the first few days of the IPF Atid delegation, I believe this is still true.

I have also come to believe that it is not only about two separate ideas — Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab, Independence and Nakba, and other opposing ideas. It is also about how we look at the conflict: its people, its history, its present, its future. It is more than just different angles. It is also different distances. Sometimes from afar and sometimes up close; sometimes macro and sometimes micro; sometimes big picture and sometimes in the nitty gritty; sometimes thinking about entire populations and sometimes about a singular relationship.

On the first day of the delegation, we met a number of ex-generals and other experts from Israel’s security establishment to assess the conflict and potential solutions. There can be no doubt that they understand firsthand the perils of war better than anyone else, but their thinking was often a few degrees separated from the people most immediately impacted by the conflict today. We heard about the “big” issues — strategic depth (Israel’s security needs with respect to geography and geopolitical threats), Arab social media trends and influences, and different iterations of maps drawn by international bodies leading up to 1948, lines drawn by wars, and proposed borders dotted on paper in the hopes of achieving final status agreement. They spoke about the security barrier, land swap ideas encompassing hundreds of square miles, and demographic balance between the millions of Arabs and Jews in between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

On our next day, as part of the tour of the Gaza Envelope region, we met with a number of people living and working along the Gaza border in Israeli territory. When rockets are fired by Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip, the residents of the communities we visited have only 15 seconds warning at best to seek shelter – sometimes having to choose which family members to help in that short time. We met with a social activist leader who helped develop a community on a moshav focusing on building relationships between all people and the land. One of his greatest feats was organizing an event with Gazans just beyond the fence in an area visible only from his window. When his idea ran into trouble a positive outcome was only realized thanks to some personal connections. While security concerns do not permit me to go into greater detail regarding this encounter, it is sufficient to say that the positive outcome here was not secured by politicians, generals, or diplomats, but by one ordinary person dealing with another person.

In these two experiences, we met people thinking very differently about the conflict. They certainly had different ideas, but what stood out was their distance from the on-the-ground realities of the conflict, a difference between top-down and bottom-up.

Just as being able to hold two contrasting ideas is necessary for solving the conflict, I have come to believe that being able to develop positions and relationships from differing vantages is critical. However, this is a rare skill, harnessed by just a few people.

Ami, the general manager of Kerem Shalom crossing on the Gaza border, is precisely this kind of rare person. A former settler from Gaza and longtime Israeli soldier, shot three times and still with one bullet in his back, Ami was a unique figure. He had mastered moving between two perspectives in an amazing way.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the key point for critical goods delivered into Gaza. Every day, up to 100 trucks can cross through to transit goods and bring in building supplies to assist with reconstruction efforts in the Strip. We first met in his office, where he was able to see what took place in the large border crossing area from a post looking out hundreds of feet into the distance. His key focus is security, including preventing terrorist attacks and smuggling of contraband. He shared his perspective on this conflict, particularly his views on Hamas and other terrorist groups, describing things in terms of a never-ending war. Ami then pivoted to explaining the situation of the two million people of Gaza living under extreme duress. Minutes later, when we were outside walking by one of the crossing points, we met with a Palestinian driver who takes the trucks over from the Israeli side into Gaza. Ami spoke to us about how he has coffee with this driver and the many others every day. The driver spoke so highly of Ami. I was amazed: of his humanity, his care, and his personal relationship. The driver mentioned that when his son was sick, Ami helped him get care. The man who looked at hundreds of people a day and executed counter-terrorist strategy on a sensitive border was also devoted to one man, the driver.

How do we see the big aspects of the conflict while also leaving room for the importance of interpersonal relationships?

We need to think from one point to another and everywhere in between. We need to be able to count from one to one thousand and from one thousand to one. We need to do it over and over. Everyday. Sometimes at the same time. Only then can we dispassionately resolve macro-level issues, while nurturing the humanity of one-on-one interactions. IPF Atid works to elevate the discourse, and we need to do it at an individual and strategic level.