Thursday, January 15, 2009

DAY FOUR: Our Hopes

Today was the final day of our solidarity mission, a day for visits to the Foreign Ministry (the office of North American relations) and the National Police Command Center. We also prayed in the morning at the Conservative Yeshivah and in the afternoon at the Kotel Masorti (the part of the wall in the Old City set aside for egalitarian minyanim). And we studied texts about offering consolation with two young rabbis at Masorti congregation Ramot Zion in French Hill. Finally we had a closing circle and heard the beautiful voices of the Noam youth choir sending us off.
It was a day to absorb what we have seen and to cry about the present and the future. Having witnessed America at War these past years, the contrast with what we experienced these past days amazes me. Not a single person we spoke to, neither spokesperson, hospital administrator, teenager or soldier, spoke with anger or hatred. Not a single person excused the death of civilians or the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza as “what happens in war.” No one spoke about Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims as a group in derogatory terms. Everyone, to a person, spoke of Israel’s responsibilities towards the preservation of civilian life on both sides. People know that terrible and gruesome things are happening in Gaza and there are no excuses, only hopes for a speedy end to the conflict and a return to calm. People hope that Hamas does not mistake Israel’s desire to end the war with weakness. People are worried about Iran and Iranian influence. But the people we spoke to do not hate.
We saw children going off to war, and other children who in a year or two will begin their military service. How many years has it been since the song “I promise you, my small child, that this will be the final war” was written? We prayed at the site of the destruction of the Second Temple and we reflected on the fragility of the moment we live in – the rare moment in Jewish history when there is a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
May calm return to the region soon. May the missiles stop falling. May the people of Palestine find a place of hope that includes living in peace alongside Israel. May the people of Israel know peace.

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