Shlomo And Salama – A Hug Across The Divide

Painting By Lanechka Fevola

The painting of Shlomo and Salama is one I did for the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum, the online forum that explores issues concerning all forms of prejudice. It is also featured on the site of The Arts And Humanity’s Cause, online cultural, social, humanitarian project. It is a painting of two ordinary people who are really extraordinary in their humanity. Here is their story.

He is Shlomo, an Israeli, she, Salama, a Palestinian. Like all of us, they each have their own stories to tell. And their two stories come together in my painting to make another story, that of two friends. Their individual stories, which they share with each other, may be filled with struggle, pain and strife. But within that despair and suffering lives also joy and hope.

Shlomo and Salama come from two different cultures, with their own traditions and ways of life, two worlds; worlds that have for decades been attacking each other and clashing with conflicts, only to collide and explode again on the 7th October in full out war. It is a war driven by hatred, fear and prejudice. A war of who owns what, who belongs where, and who deserves to exist? And there seems to be no end in sight. And yet, are their worlds so different from each other after all? Are they so different from the rest of the world? Shlomo and Salama each live in fear for themselves, their families, their friends and their land, their ways of life, for the very existence of their worlds. Both are exhausted by the fighting, the violence and long for peace. Yet, they still have the strength and the courage to live and to love. All over the world, we live in societies made up of diverse cultures and traditions, races and religions, and those of no religion, with their own problems and conflicts. But we have many things in common, one in particular: we are all human beings with similar needs, aspirations, hopes and dreams. And we all live here in this one world, on the wondrous planet Earth. Like all of us, the Israelis and the Palestinians each need and have the right to have a homeland of their own, a place to thrive and flourish, just as a tree needs that bit of the rich earth in which to plant its roots so that it can flower and fruit. But the tree does not live in isolation.

Beginning as a seed and in order to grow and, ultimately, survive and live well, the tree needs what the soil offers, but also needs the bees, the birds, the sky, the rain and the sun, the stars and the moon. It exists in a community of relationships. And because it is nourished by the elements and its environment, as a foetus is nourished in the womb universe of its mother, it becomes a strong and beautiful member of the community, able to give of itself to it, thus nourishing it. This is a Tree of Life.

We should be like trees and nourish ourselves and our communities, which, in turn, nourish us. Such harmony coming from such a way of being, engenders health and wholeness. If we learn to understand the ways of Nature and the Cosmos that move by an unknown Source, a Divine Source which is ineffable and beyond our understanding , and apply them to our ways and live in relationship with them, we would live in accordance with a Great Wisdom, our souls attuned to the Soul of the World. Some call it God, Allah or Jesus; others, the Great Spirit, the Mother Goddess, a Higher Consciousness or the Dao. This Higher Power, or Universal Consciousness, is in its essence sublimely creative. It is what gives everything in the universe life. It does so freely. It cannot help but do this, just as a rose cannot help but open to and blossom in the sun, an urge innate in the rose. This, to me, is an expression of Love and Beauty. Therefore, we would so love the world, for since it has brought us into being, we embody its Divine Spirit, and our eyes would be opened to see the sacred and the magical in all existence. How then could we not help but express our joy and gratitude and wonder, though there still be times of darkness and suffering, and, as creative beings ourselves, not help but feel passionate about helping to create a happy and healthy world? Because we don’t do this, our societies and nations are becoming increasingly fractured, confused, competitive and apathetic, and our existence endangered. We care more for our individual selves and ideologies, a “me or us against you and yours” mentality, and try to overpower others who are seen as the “other,” not those connected to us. Many of us are feeling as though we are circling alone and fearful in an unfriendly and impersonal Universe that has no connection to us whatsoever, and feeling this separation, the world seems to have no meaning . We are meant to be the caretakers of the world. It is our sacred duty; not those who have dominion over it, believing ourselves as lord and masters to plunder and enslave selfishly for our own needs. These actions have consequences. Such an ignorant and limited perspective only endangers us and shall eventually hurt and destroy us.

The planet is our homeland with room enough for everybody and everything. It belongs to us all, but we cannot own it. It is a gift as life is a gift. Knowing this creates trust and stability. We have lost our way in what is truly a Cosmos of extraordinary beauty and wonder, and we should be in awe of it. We should try to become reunited with it. I believe that within our hearts there lies dormant the seed of a longing for communion with it. It is in our nature to be in dialogue with all things, for we belong with each other. We are curious beings and our imaginations are stimulated when we endeavour to learn about the world and ourselves, as so much is complex and unknown. Life is a spiritual Mystery and we have been in violation of its mysterious Nature and Wisdom, only to wander homeless in a lonely and hostile world.

Hopefully, we still have time to change our perspective. We should learn to serve each other with our sharing of each other and our gifts, and live in unity with all of life, not war against it. It is what makes us human. We know that amidst destruction, violence and chaos, there is still to be found kindness and compassion. With our creativity, our world could become a community of togetherness and understanding and love, that speaks with truth, justice and integrity. A community of friends, with much to learn from one other and much to respect, thus, perhaps giving peace to our restless souls.

Each of us is unique and different. These differences shape our world and enhance it. So let us celebrate these qualities and nurture them instead of fight them. Like Shlomo and Salama, let us embrace one another with warmth, empathy and compassion, and open our hearts with genuine hospitality and humility. Let us be generous as the Earth is generous in its giving of itself to us. Instead of responding from our superficial, self-centred egos with their one-sided polarities, let us be like the stars in the sky, each one a unique reflection of the One Universal Light, and radiate our individual lights from our hearts, the centre where meets our highest and deepest selves, in all directions to shine upon everthing and everyone with universal communion. Let us not make ours a horror story, plotted by terrorism and holocausts, possession, control and mistrust, but one of kinship, beauty and love. As mature and caring beings, let us learn to heal ourselves and act with true vision. Within many of us, that seed of longing in our hearts to tell such a story is ripening in desperation. Its voice is beginning to split our hearts in two, ready to burst forth. And we need visionary leaders who shall speak and act with such wisdom, so that we are not made victims of our leaders and our situations.

I shall end with questions: Why are we so blind as to choose to live in a world shaped by violence, hatred and prejudice, which can only lead to meaningless suffering and death, and, perhaps, ultimately, complete destruction of humankind? Is this not a form of madness? Why not choose a world guided by peace, compassion, beauty, goodness, justice and truth? Are we so addicted to hatred and suffering to have forgotten what it means to live joyously? Have we forgotten who we really are?


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