“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Oprah Winfrey

Israel and Palestine two peoples inextricably linked together culturally, geographically and historically. These two nations both of whom are proud and strong willed, share an angst which dates back millennia to the Patriarch of the 3 sister religions Abraham. Endowed from above with a storied past molded amidst the furious and frenetic environment which forms part of what is the roughest neighborhood within our global village, the mystique of these two peoples and the land to which they reside has captivated and motivated the minds of men for time in perpetuity.

 Since that bright and sunny May’s day in Tel-a-Viv in 1948, when a new patriarch in Ben Gurion stepped out of his limousine to scenes of rapturous applause as Jewish independence beckoned, said angst between these two great peoples has arisen again. As conflict, economic miracles, ground breaking treaties and consistent quarreling over ancient rights of occupation of what we all affectionately refer to as the Holy land have become  commonplace.

Both of these states have leadership which has many enviable traits in character that are typical in beings of a decisive nature. Traits like self- confidence that we see with men like Bibi Netenyahu and Yassir Arrafat as they brazenly argue their points on the international theatre of diplomacy with a vigor which very few can ever match. Leadership endowed with those enviable qualities of determination and conviction we witnessed being displayed by ambassador  Tzipi Hotovely, as she vehemently argued her point on behalf of the state of Israel  on Sky’s all out politics show. Not to mention the courage we have witnessed on both sides in the multitude of wars to which they have all participated throughout the last 75 years. One trait of decisiveness however seems to always be missing amongst the ranks of both of these parties, said trait can be said is the most crucial in being able to create an order of unity of purpose amongst these two bickering cousin states. Its influence not just limited to Israeli- Palestinian affairs, but carrying weight in any environment where those hideous triplets of resentment, anger and mistrust are found. What is this trait one might ask? Well the answer is simple, it is the trait of empathy.

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself” to quote Mohsin Hamid, and in spite of the many differences to which we hold as humans, it is the celebration of this diversity that makes us more human. Many may see empathy as a weakness but I beg to differ, humans are naturally wired to want to feel dominant, intelligent and on top of the situation with a wanting to be right most if not all the time, and why not? After all, this is what we have been led to believe is the sign of courage and strength, history however paints a different picture , as through empathy’s expression some of the most courageous advancements have come to being. Empathy’s influence is much greater than that of any soldier  or missile, as through her wiles we develop the courage to listen, to understand to look to be enlightened and to sympathize with the view point of our foe.

Via empathy some of the most iconic and decisive moments are born, just envision Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Beign on the 17th of September in 1978 as they signed the framework for peace between the Arab and Israeli nations. Just picture the former South African heads of state Nelson Mandela and P.W De Klerk standing side by side upon receiving the noble peace prize in 1993. Visualize the Good Friday agreement which established a unity of purpose between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or Magic Johnson standing side by side with rival gangs in downtown Los Angeles as they worked together in unity of purpose to bring to light improvements within said deprived communities. The trait of empathy is what brings together people from diverse groups and gets them working together progressively on shared visions, and without it the art of decisive leadership gives way to conflict and mistrust. “There can only be hope for a nation that acts as one big family, not for one that acts as many separate families” to quote Anwar Sadat. And if we want to be able to achieve this lofty goal of unity of purpose, the trait of empathy must always find itself engraved in our being lest conflict’s triplets of anger, resentment and mistrust turn us into ash.

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