The Lunatic in the Attic – Jane Eyre and The Israeli-Arab Conflict

I once was young and now am old. And in my youth, I used to analyze the case for Israeli peace, or war, with the Palestinians in great detail. Many people still do so: They provide impressive maps, they invoke the history of the conflict, they employ biblical arguments, they employ theoretical and moral arguments, they analyze the topography, they analyze weapon capabilities, they make geopolitical comparisons, you know the drill!

A common thing that happens when you get older is that abstractions and general ideas become less meaningful. Who cares about universal justice or the future of the modern battlefield, when one has to remember to swallow 12 pills every day? Well, I am not THAT old, but I hope you get my drift. A man in his prime cares not for Plato and his remote ideals, but for the minutiae and practical virtues of Aristotle. One learns to be sensible rather than right.

One also learns to accept things as they are, without feeling a yearning desire to fix all that is wrong with the world. A messy garage can remain a mess, a wild-looking backyard has its charms, and the fact that your wife may not be a pin-up girl is something you will just have to accept.

All of this requires a measure of Stoic detachment and a dash of the old virtues of prudence and temperance. All wanting in this moment’s culture of celebrated hysteria. However, should one achieve such a mental state, the Israeli-Arab conflict may then become a practical question.

At the end of the day, the Israeli-Arab conflict is encapsulated by Mr. Rochester’s dilemma, he of Jane Eyre. Rochester can free the crazed Mrs. Rochester from her bondage in the attic, but then he risks her torching down the mansion. Conversely, if Rochester keeps the missus locked up, a certain permanent glum will reside over him, but he may yet achieve something close to a normal life.

From Rochester’s point of view, the bargain is obvious. Indeed, had he been able to, he would have kept Mrs. Rochester locked up forever. Once released, she brought upon him calamity and pain – disasters that only the angelic Jane was able to lovingly heal.

Why should Israel release its own crazed lady from the attic? Previous experiments have proven bloody and calamitous. Why try again? As Rochester did, Israelis should treat their lunatics with kindness and goodwill, but they owe nobody, definitely not any abstract and simplistic form of morality, the risking of their children’s lives.

Human existence is a complex tragedy, not a tale of banal morality. By this time in 200 years, perhaps the Arabs will have learned to control themselves. If not, there is always the hope that Jane may appear, as the Christ-like sprite she was.

A rocket explodes near my toddler niece’s home in the Jerusalem mountains.

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