Time Out

Notes from a flaming moderate

Don't Believe Everything You Think

Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The fervent anti-Communist, Republican President Nixon opened up the Western world to China. Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Time and time again, we have to admit, reality bumps up against what we think we know for sure.

When you're sure something's obvious, or it's what "everyone knows," or that it goes without saying...that's the time to remind yourself not to believe everything you think. In the fields of international affairs, political history or really anything having to do with human behavior, opinions are just thoughts that are best held with open arms of good-natured skepticism. And humility. Too much confidence in our own thoughts can make us overlook what is right in front of us.

Doesn't "everyone know" that in the Middle East conflict, secular actors struggle for peace while religious leaders hang back (or worse)? Conventional wisdom has it that more conservatively religious people are less likely to cooperate with those who are different. The more religious, the more insular, there are many examples of that. But let's not overlook evidence to the contrary.

For example, this week, in a valley between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, rabbis, imams and priests came together to pray. The area has been experiencing drought, and the clergy - Rev. Issa Elias Musleh of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Rabbi Menachem Froman, an Orthodox rabbi who lives in a settlement, and Sheikh Abdel Najib, mufti of the Bethlehem area - prayed together for rain. Each group prayed according to their own tradition, while the others watched respectfully.

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Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D., is affiliated with the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at the George Washington University.

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