“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Very few of us, if any, are a Van Gogh. Many of us, though, are dreamers.
As we enter 2015, we experience yet again and again the recurring dream of Peace; Peace within family, Peace with friends. Many even dare dream big, they dream of world Peace.
In Israel, however, we dream modestly. We want to start Peace with our neighbors first.
Since my early childhood in Israel, I remember singing songs of Peace, praying for Peace, wishing for Peace and reaching out to our neighbors offering Peace. Already in 1948, Israel’s Declaration of Independence stated in a clear, forwardly manner:
“WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their people in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
Leaders from the Right and Left of the Israeli political spectrum, likewise, echoed this yearning for Peace.
In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said:
“Therefore, allow me today to define the meaning of peace as we understand it. We seek a true, full peace, with absolute reconciliation between the Jewish People and the Arab People. We must not permit memories of the past to stand in our way. There have been wars; blood has been shed; our wonderful sons have fallen in battle on both sides. We shall always cherish the memory of our heroes who gave their lives so that this day, yea even this day might come. We respect the valour of an adversary, and we pay tribute to all members of the young generation of the Arab Nation who have fallen as well.”
In 1993, after sealing the Accord with Arafat on the White House lawn, Rabin announced,
“We say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice; enough of blood and tears. Enough! We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people – people who want to build a home. To plant a tree. To love – live side by side with you. In dignity. In empathy. As human beings. As free men. We are today giving peace a chance – and saying to you and saying again to you: enough!”
Ariel Sharon resonated the same sentiments in 2001:
“Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else gave them – a state. Not the Turks, the British, the Egyptians, or the Jordanians gave them this possibility. All Israel asks is that Arafat commit himself to stopping the terror, to live in Peace.”
In 2009, President Peres declared:
“Israel stands with her arms outstretched, her arms hands held open to peace with all nations, with all Arab states, with all Arab states, with all Arab people. To those holding a clenched fist, I have just one word to say: enough! Enough war, enough destruction, enough hatred.”
At the same time, this is the inveterate denunciatory message that Israel has received from some of its neighbors’ leaders:
“As long as Hezbollah exists, it will never recognize Israel.” (Nassrallah, leader of Hezbollah)
Or this one from Ismail Haniyeh, Head of Hamas who is part of the “Palestinian” unity government:
“We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our Jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem.”
And this one from Saeb Erekat, one of the chief “Peace negotiators” of the “Palestinian” Authority:
“The Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity.”
It seems that even great artists like Van Gogh would fail at the task of painting Peace in the Middle East. Unlike Van Gogh’s universe, in this region both sides have to dream, sometime, the impossible dream, of Peace to create the reality that he was able to put on canvas.
Until that time, all we have to do is keep dreaming.