The Human Struggle for Acceptance
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Sitting cross-legged on a rooftop in Acre, I stared with awe as I watched the bright orange sun begin to to set, casting a mystical light across the city. Everything around me looked picturesque, the world feeling still and silent. I had only been in Israel for a week at this point, but I already had developed a connection to the land and its history, both its triumphs and struggles. I gazed around in an attempt to not miss a single thing the view had to offer, from the green dome of the mosque across the street to the glass like Mediterranean Sea out in the distance. The others around me began to sing Lecha Dodi, a prayer that welcomes in the sabbath bride. All of us were smiling, utterly grateful for the opportunity to be celebrating shabbat in the place that holds our history. I didn’t realize that a few moments after we begun to sing my perspective on life would be changed forever.
A few seconds into Lecha Dodi, the Muslim call to prayer began. We all looked at each other, trying to decide whether to stop for a few minutes until it was over, or to raise our voices that much louder. We unanimously chose to continue singing, bridging a gap between an eternity of differences with the sound of prayer. The Hebrew and the Arabic blended together in this imperfect harmony, this chorus of chaos that for so many centuries has divided the world into pieces. However, during that moment, I seemed to believe that one day things could be different. Here were two opposing philosophies sharing a space, a place of worship, a time to pray, a country- and a world. If only we could all see the world as it existed for that brief time, an imperfect blend of harmonies made by imperfect people. It’s our refusal to accept this notion that leads us into a cycle of distrust and disrespect.
We all sat with chills running up our spines, letting the significance of what we heard resonate deeper inside of us. Sitting silently with the earth outstretched in front of us, I had an epiphany, my entire perspective on the world changed from a few mere minutes. What is life but the ultimate struggle for acceptance? Acre, which is situated in northern Israel, is known for being accepting towards people of all walks of faith. It wasn’t until that night that I understood the importance of acceptance and its significance in every aspect of our lives. Everything we do in life is to get others to accept us, for us to accept others, and for us to accept ourselves. When we fail to see the value in acceptance, we are breeding a culture of hate, division, and ignorance. When we tell ourselves that we can’t accept the beliefs of other cultures, we are refusing to learn, progress, and live wholly.
If you chose to open your eyes, you will see this struggle for acceptance everywhere across the world. We want others to accept what we want, but we won’t accept their basic rights and needs. This struggle has been alive since the beginning of time, an ancient battle between forces of man. I saw the struggle as I looked out over the border of Syria in the Golan Heights, hearing bombs being dropped in the distance. I saw the struggle on the walls that separated the four quarters of the Old City in Jerusalem. I saw the struggle on the faces of policemen gathered by the Western Wall, worried that the struggle would erupt into violence. When I arrived home to the states I saw how bad the struggle had become- it exists everywhere, between every group of people. What I’ve learned from the white supremacists and the current situation in America is that the struggle doesn’t disappear unless we put an end to it.
Acceptance starts within each and every one of us. If we first can’t learn to accept ourselves, we will spend our lives bitter at the rest of the world, instead of trying to do what we can to make it a better place. It’s time that we accept our differences, using them to bond us together instead of tearing us apart. We don’t look at our differences as what makes our world beautiful, we look at them and tell ourselves that our differences are the problem. At the end of the day, we are all human, we all matter, and we all deserve to live a life in a world where we are accepted. Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish… humanity has no language. Like the words I heard that night on the rooftop in Acre, our beliefs may never blend together perfectly, but we can live in harmony. I'm doubtful that there will ever come a day where we embrace the views of others, but I'm extremely hopeful that there will be a day where we respect the views of others.
So where do we go from here? Let's open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, for acceptance is the definite place to start.