My heart truly aches for the people of Israel; especially for those people who have had loved ones murdered in past years by the twenty-six Palestinian prisoners released this week by the Israeli government. I put myself into the shoes of a husband or father, whose wife or child was murdered, and I can’t help but feel further violated. “How can you, my government, set free these people who sought only to perpetrate pain, agony and murder?” “By what right or ideal do we now release them to freedom?”
No, I do not publically criticize the Israeli government very often. Amidst the complexities of the Middle East, it is hard for me to imagine that a peace agreement can be reached at the present time, if at any time. The various Arab factions continue to fight among themselves for power and control, and Arab children continue to be taught to resent and seek the destruction of the State of Israel. The same question remains: “With whom can Israel make peace?” And, “amidst the volatility of the factions, how can Israel trust those compromises that would jeopardize its security?
As for releasing these prisoners, and then announcing at the same time the further development of “settlements,” I cannot understand the logic. Israel’s gesture gets “lost” while our American politicians can claim some kind of “progress” toward the renewal of peace talks. And much of the Israeli public asks of its leaders: “What kind of fools are you and how can you so betray us?” And the
Palestinians celebrate their “heroes,” even as they feel further Israeli oppression.
Some of us were recently in Israel. All Israelis with whom we spoke want nothing more than peace. They are willing to compromise and risk for peace. They want a future, foretold in an Israel song where a young father expresses his daughter “I promise you that this will be the last war.”
We enter this New Year with hope: Hope for Israel, hope for the well-being of America, and hope for all humanity that we will yet learn to live together in peace. Yes, that is the ultimate gift that we can give to our children and grandchildren.
Rabbi David Greenberg