Yesterday evening, in the course of “zapping” between TV stations, I happened to see a BBC documentary about Israeli President Shimon Peres ( a man who, at 90, gives a whole new meaning to the title “elder statesman”). Amongst other things, Peres was interviewed by journalist Lyse Doucet. Speaking about the chances of peace in the Middle East, and questioned as to whether it was possible to hold on to Israeli “settlements” and still have peace, Peres remarked that it was necessary to be “creative”. I’m not sure what he meant, but I was reminded of a story I heard recently, during a course on Mediation in which I participated, under the auspices of the Israel Bar Association. I call it: “The Tale of an Orange”, and it goes like this:
There was once a man who had two young daughters. This man worked very hard all day to earn a living, and when he came home at the end of the day, he wanted nothing more than to collapse in the rocking-chair on his porch with a cold drink and a slice of watermelon. However, on the particular day in question, he was unable to do so, because of the loud screams and shrieks of his daughters coming from the kitchen. Trusting that the children’s mother would soon put a stop to their squabbling, he pulled his baseball cap down over his face and tried very hard to take a nap. But the shouts and screams continued and the unfortunate father remembered that his wife, who also worked full time to help pay the bills, had gone to a conference out of town and would not be back till late.
The man sighed, pulled himself to his feet and went inside.
“What in the world are you two fighting about?” he demanded, wearily.
The children started to recount their wrongs. As they were speaking – or rather, shouting – simultaneously, it was impossible for their father to understand what they were saying, beyond the fact that there was a single orange on the kitchen counter, to which both girls laid claim.
Without waiting to hear more, the harassed father seized the orange with one hand, took up a knife with the other and, without further ado, sliced the orange in two and handed one half to each of his daughters.
“There!” he said, impatiently. “Now let’s have no more nonsense, Maybe now we can have some peace and quiet and I’ll be able to get some sleep!”.
A couple of hours later, the children’s mother came home. The sound of her key turning in the lock brought the children running to the door to greet her.
“Have you been playing together nicely, darlings?” she asked them.
“Oh, yes, Mummy!” they replied.
“What have you been doing?”
“Making orange juice,” said one, with a sigh. “But I only had enough juice for half a cup, so there wasn’t enough for both of us.”
“Making orange-flavoured muffins,” said her sister, discontentedly. “But I only had enough orange peel for one.”
Later that evening, after the children had gone to bed, their mother complimented her husband on having successfully kept the children amused while she was out. “I’m surprised they didn’t start squabbling, as usual,” she said.
“Well, actually, they did,” the man replied, rather proud of his parenting skills. “But I soon put a stop to that.” And he recounted to her the story of the orange.
His wife (who had obviously attended the same Mediation course as I did – ed.) listened carefully and then told him how their daughters had spent their time while he was sleeping. “You see, darling, if you had only demanded that they speak one at a time, and had had the patience to listen to the very end, you would have understood that each of them wanted something different. One of them wanted the orange peel and the other wanted the orange juice. If, instead of losing your patience and simply cutting the orange in two and giving each girl half an orange, you had made them peel the orange and squeeze all the juice before dividing up the spoils, Sarah would have had ALL the juice and Rachel would have had ALL the peel. As it is – each had to make do with only half.”
I do not know if the lessons to be learned from this little tale are applicable to the Middle East Peace Process. Still – it’s food for thought, isn’t it?