A Tale of Two Cities-Jerusalem and Ramallah

I wrote this speech for my son’s school speech contest in 2002, it seems that it is still relevant today.
I greet you all in the name of peace. Charles Dickens once started a famous book by writing:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of amazement, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair
Well, in the context of my speech, let me take some literary license and say, it is the worst of times, it is the worst of times! It is the age of ignorance and foolishness; it is the epoch of disbelief and insanity. It is the season of darkness and a winter of hopelessness and despair. What one event or situation can bring such hopelessness and such despair? In the age of opportunity and enlightenment, why should I a mere student speak with so much fear about anything?
I speak so fearfully because of a specific conflict, a conflict so dangerous that no one can ignore it. I speak of a tale of two cities. Two cities where all hope is gone, where insanity reins and where blood flows. What are we to do , when children die in their mothers arms, where guns and tanks are normal, when laughing children are considered dangerous and teenagers are listed” as enemies of the state. A walk in the park is no longer just that, it is a dance with death!
I speak of the cities of Jerusalem and Ramallah, in Israel and Palestine, cities at war. Each is struggling to survive in a sea of uncertainty. Each having a moral right to existence, each wanting to do so at the exclusion of the other. Fear rules the day, everyday activities become minefields. Morning greetings that normally mean noting more see you later take on a new meaning, because goodbye might be just that, goodbye, forever, final. The future seems so far away, peace seems so impossible.
What is the solution? What will we do to make sure that this is the last generation that has to witness this struggle? Who amongst us remembers a time when the conflict was not before us? Will we let history continue to judge this generation by our failure to find a solution? It is a tragedy that in a land that claims to be so important to three of the world’s important religions, that hatred, death and intolerance have so much hold.
The solution is not a peace plan by America, nor is it a UN conference on peace, it is a solution driven and carried out by Israelis and Palestinians. What the people of this region needs, is not our condemnation, but our support. No amount of military force, suicide bombers or occupations can solve this problem.
I cannot be so bold as to suggest that this is not a complex problem, but let me appeal to your sensitivities, are you not appalled by the killing, the maiming, the blood and the death. How much more reports do we need to hear, how much more bodies do we need to see. I believe that we have had enough, we need to reflect and then we need to act. We need to speak out in out churches, mosques and our synagogues, so that we can make a difference. We have to begin talking.
We South Africans have a unique perspective on this issue. We too have fought a long and hard battle for freedom. We too were robbed for decades of our basic human rights. We too fought in the streets, in our schools, and in our factories. In the end however, we sat down and talked. We engaged each other in dialogue and in the end we won. Surely this must be the message to Ariel Sharon, to Yasser Arafat and to the people of Israel and Palestine.
I wish to end my speech by remembering the expression that says: “Evil triumphs when good men say noting” Thank you all

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