Where to begin? In 1896 Theodore Herzl published “The Jewish State.” In the introduction Herzl stated that:
“The Jews who wish for a State shall have it, and they will deserve to have it.”
Let’s go back a little further. In Exodus 33:1 G-d reminds Moses of his promise:
“Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.”
Maybe a few hundred years further back. In Genesis 13:13-15 G-d speaks to Abram:
Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.…
Moving forward a few chapters to Genesis 25:8-10 Abraham dies:
Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife.
Moving forward to the Quran; Chapter 3, Verses 133-4:
“Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden (paradise) whose width is that of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous – Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain (their) anger and pardon (all) men – for God loves those who do good.”
Maybe a bissel forward. On September 13, 1993 Yitzhak Rabin met Yasser Arafat at the White House and before shaking his hand he spoke:
“Let me say to you, the Palestinians: We are destined to live together on the same soil, in the same land. We, the soldiers who have returned from battle stained with blood, we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents, we who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians – We say to you today in a loud and a clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough.”
Let’s back up a little. On November 13, 1974 Yasser Arafat spoke to the United Nations:
“In my formal capacity as Chairman of the PLO and leader of the Palestinian revolution I appeal to you to accompany our people in its struggle to attain its right to self-determination. This right is consecrated in the United Nations Charter and has been repeatedly confirmed in resolutions adopted by this august body since the drafting of the Charter. I appeal to you, further, to aid our people’s return to its homeland from an involuntary exile imposed upon it by force of arms, by tyranny, by oppression, so that we may regain our property, our land, and thereafter live in our national homeland, free and sovereign, enjoying all the privileges of nationhood.… Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
A little further back. On October 2, 1947 David Ben Gurion spoke to the elected Jewish Assembly in Jerusalem:
“A final fact. From our work in Palestine, from the society we are constructing, our economy and science, our culture and humanity, our social and fiscal order, and from no other source, must enlightenment come to our neighbors, for if they do not learn from us and labor with us, it is with strangers, potent and tyrannous, that they will find themselves partnered.
They in turn have much to give us, they are blessed with what we lack. Great territories, ample for themselves and their children’s children, even if they are far more prolific than they are today…Come what may, we will not surrender our right to free Aliyah, to rebuild our shattered Homeland, to claim statehood. If we are attacked, we will fight back. But we will do everything in our power to maintain peace, and establish a Cupertino gainful to both. It is now, here and now, from Jerusalem itself, that a call must go out to the Arab nations to join forces with Jewry and the destined Jewish State and work shoulder to shoulder for our common good, for the peace and progress of sovereign equals.”
Today we find ourselves looking back at all the progress of two peoples and all that they each have overcome. At the anguish of the loss of sons and daughters, fathers and mothers in a family feud that goes far beyond generations and even centuries to the cradle of our beliefs. We have learned much and yet know nothing. We come to the spring of this year, the 50th anniversary of the War of 1967 that opened the door for Israel to Judea and Samaria. It is an anniversary of opportunity and privation. So many seek peace, but without the belief that it is available. Two aging leaders joined by a huckster who would like nothing better than to achieve what no one else found possible. It is time for all the people who live in Israel, the West Bank and those residing in the Diaspora. It is time in the name of all those who came before and those who died in search of peace whoever happens to be charge. May it be so!