Hope amidst despair

Before the fighting in Gaza began, after the cruel murder of our three boys and the burning to death of the Palestinian youth, David Grossman wrote an article ending with words that have been stuck in my mind during the past weeks. He wrote, “The situation is too desperate to leave in the hands of the despairing.”

These words are with me in the beautiful moments that demonstrate our strengths, solidarity, volunteerism and even love. They also accompany me in moments of frustration, despair and anger. The anger, of course, is directed at Muhammad Deif and his associates who in their heartless way have brought about so much destruction and death to their people. They could have made a different choice — a choice of life, a choice of a future, a choice that would have brought them all the things they say they want to achieve for their people, without a single victim.

I know that many Islamists think this. I know that the way of peace is anchored in Islamic law, but they chose the choice of death. Having said this and especially because of it, I am not willing to surrender to those who want to cause us to despair of peace. Even though peace tarries, I shall wait for it every day and I shall work even harder against the discouraged and the despairing among us, because it is our responsibility to build our future. Without a future for them – we have no future either. This, from my point of view is the essence of Zionism, the essence of heroism. A hero is one who conquers his desires, who turns his foe into his friend.

The entire Torah was stated on one foot as, “do not do unto others what you do not want done to you”.

In the midst of the fighting, our partners, the heads of the Palestinian Ulama (the Supreme Religious Council) wrote to us saying that they are willing, now, to begin writing our future story, here, together. Maybe today the ear is “Deif” to hear and answer this challenge.

It is Tish’a B’Av, the day of destruction, but also the beginning of hope for redemption.

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Melchior is a leading advocate for social justice in Israel, education for all, Jewish-Arab reconciliation and co-existence, protection of the environment, and Israel-Diaspora relations. Through his work, Rabbi Melchior seeks to strengthen Israeli civil society so it may catalyze significant social change in the State of Israel. He was a member of Knesset for the Meimad Party. Rabbi Melchior continues to hold the title of Chief Rabbi of Norway.