ac·cli·mate to adapt to a new temperature, altitude, climate, environment, or situation. Intransitive form: to become acclimated. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
To acclimate is to become accustomed to change. To become acclimated is to have external forces act upon in an acclimating way. The easiest method for acclimation is repetition. Thus do people living in war zones manage to go to the grocery store and do all the other things of ordinary life, knowing that any time, a bomb could fall from the sky. Taking that as a given is acclimation.
The beginning of living in war isn’t like that at all. At first, physical response kicks in, adrenaline surges, and fight or flight reactions go into high gear. But with enough repetition, the one acted upon becomes accustomed or acclimated to the environment of violence so that it becomes a natural backdrop to existence.
Think not? Consider, then, events in Israel-Palestine today – right now. Today, right now, tensions are on the rise at an alarming rate. From a distance, it can seem puzzling, even for that imbroglio: on-going low-level violence has become the business-as-usual order of things. The people have become acclimatized to the daily violence. That is not to say that they find it acceptable; it is to say that they have adjusted their lives to that reality, many, most likely, without any conscious thought.
But in the mind(s) of someone or someones in Israel this week, that has changed. Sadly, on neither side has it changed in the direction of de-escalation. It seems that acclimatization has set the floor at low-level daily violence, with the only perceived place to go being up, up, and up, towards ever more violence.
And with the choice of name for the current operation: Operation Pillar of Cloud (also known as Cloud Column or Pillar of Defense) – an obvious reference to the Exodus, where God led the Israelites out of Egypt as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, Israel National News, a religious element is introduced. The danger, of course, is the notion of divine mandate.
Thus the question begs to be asked: what kind of a world must some folks inhabit where daily violence is so routine that it’s the norm and any deviation towards peace is beyond imagining. Perhaps the real question is how people can be acclimatized towards peace rather than violence.
War is not just something that we humans do; it is also something that is done to us. And like everything else, it becomes habit, normative, when practiced frequently enough.
In this way, a cease fire can be understood as something much more than breathing room. Cease fire can become a tiny crack in the acclimatization towards war and its own small acclimatizing step in the necessarily repetitive process of peace.
Maybe in a very small way we around the world can help. Maybe today, even just today, we can stop talking about who’s at fault and who’s violence is the more justified. Maybe, even just for today, we around the world can speak only words of peace and hope and love to, with, for, around, and about Israel and Palestine.
Maybe, just for today, we could acclimatize ourselves towards a peaceable kingdom.
Peace, salaam, shalom.