I Understand You

Because I love these hills, this landscape, these deer,
and rivers and vines,
I understand why you do.

Because I need to feel at home in this place,
I understand why you do.

Because the life stories of my people
bring me here, hold me here,
I understand that yours do.

Because I remembered this place and felt attached to it
even when I wasn’t here,
I understand that you did, too.

Because the vagaries of history have convinced me that
I need to be here, with secure borders and a national identity,
I understand that you do, too.

Because - when I have felt afraid of you - I have imagined that
you are a murderous beast, somehow inhuman,
I understand that you have imagined me this way, too.

Because my fear has brought me to act in ways that were
powerful but immoral and cruel,
I understand that yours has done so, too.

Because I have felt alone,
abandoned by the world’s nations,
I understand the additional burden of feeling alone in your suffering.

Because my ancestors are buried in these hills,
I understand why the graves of your people are a sacred magnet for you.

Because I want to move freely in my land, and
grow and raise my children and my tomatoes and my spirit
in freedom and health in this place,
I know that you need this, too.

My need does not cancel yours.
My need helps me know yours.

Andrea Cohen-Kiener

Andrea Cohen-Kiener is a rabbi in Hartford, Connecticut. With The Compassionate Listening Project. Rabbi Cohen-Kiener leads groups of American citizens to Israel and Palestine, listening to the narratives of women, men, and youth of diverse views. She can be reached by e-mail at ahuva@snet.net.

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