If we can give our children the tools to manage conflict and show them the path to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, they may succeed where we have failed.
Before 9/11, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about interfaith conflict. I largely ignored the religious rifts that define so much of Israel and the broader social and cultural problems that plague the Middle East. I viewed getting engaged as a waste of time because I didn’t believe there was a way I could make a difference in the region. The cultural and religious conflicts seemed so intractable to me, and plenty of other passionate people were already spending time trying to solve them, so I didn’t think it would be worth investing the time to really learn about the issues and develop more than a surface understanding of the conflict.
9/11 changed my basic perspective, as I recalibrated long-held beliefs about America and the rest of the world. As many other people have, I also concluded that the resolution of the Middle East conflict would now have a very direct impact on me and my family. I felt compelled to learn more and to find a way to get involved and make a difference.
Whether in business or otherwise, I am either fully engaged in something or not engaged at all, and when I am engaged, I do my best to leave my fingerprints on that project. I insist on understanding the details of an undertaking before committing to it. Philanthropy is no different. Simply writing checks to established charitable organizations just isn’t enough to make me feel that I’ve done my part.
I have spent the last two years learning about Islam in seminars at the Aspen Institute, meeting Muslim Arabs in the Arab Middle East and in Israel, meeting Muslims of different ethnicities in the U.S., and developing personal and business relationships with Israelis in Israel and in the U.S. I have also begun to reach out to representatives of Christian groups in the U.S. who advocate religious pluralism in education. Not only do I feel I can make a difference, I am making a difference. The best part is that I am just getting started.
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