Peace process: Do or die or what?

The phrase “moment of truth” is one that is being bantered around now in the realm of Middle East peace. Is this a “moment of truth” for the Israelis and Palestinians? If so, what are the consequences of knowing that previous “moments of truth” came and went and nothing changed? There are not many areas in life where one is offered the opportunity for multiple “moments of truth” in the same situation. For Israelis and Palestinians, there have been several, with most not bearing much fruit. And so, with peace talks nearing a tipping point, with the set deadlines approaching and already abandoned, with both sides again falling off the cliff of fear and mistrust, there appears to be another “moment of truth” coming soon. The fallout may happen slowly, unfolding again as we fail to end the occupation, fail to end Palestinian terrorism and violence, fail to end settlements, and fail to persuade the Arabs to finally accept Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Or, it may happen abruptly, if war breaks out. We had a mini-battle last week, a return to attrition, even as the leaders were in Washington trying to figure things out. Will both sides fully participate or leave President Obama and Secretary Kerry with a framework for peace talks and nobody willing to talk?

Two narratives, two peoples, two states. This is what we are striving for in these peace negotiations. We need to establish borders, ensure security, and then work through the very weighty and spiritually challenging issues of narrative, pain, suffering and mistrust. Can we break through the barrier of fear and agree to end the conflict? Can we then can jump into the final status issues and work together to bring peace in the Holy Land? The prophets speak of shouts of joy in Zion, justice flowing down like a mighty stream, wolves lying down with the lambs; God will not bring peace, however, until we bring peace. I am a man of prayer, to be sure, but I believe that without human effort, human will, human determination, dedication, risk-taking and hope, God can’t help us. Both sides, both peoples, need to want to end this conflict.

Please, Prime Minister Netanyahu, please President Abbas: seize this moment, reach out your hands for peace, lead your peoples to the finish line; as the Book of Esther teaches: it may be that for this very moment you were placed on this Earth. Make hard decisions, compromise, realize neither of you will get everything you want. Prepare your peoples for a new reality. That is leadership. The world is ready to follow you, the United States of America is ready to help, and those that oppose can be swept along with the tide of peace, for there is nothing stronger than peace. Peace is, and always has been, stronger than war. Love is, and always has been, stronger than hate. Forgiveness is, and always has been, stronger than revenge. We just had a century of war, hate and revenge. While this century is still young, why not try peace, love and forgiveness? It’s not just in songs, on bumper sticks or for flower people. All three Abrahamic traditions teach that this is the true way of humankind. Can we finally learn this eternal lesson?

If this is do or die, I seriously hope we don’t just say “so what.” If we can’t, or won’t, learn from our mistakes, another generation, or more, is doomed to suffer the consequences. But, if we act, if we rise up and meet hope with courage, then imagine the future we are giving to the children of the Middle East, to children everyone. May this be the “moment of truth” we finally seize.

About the Author
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater has been the spiritual leader of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center in Pasadena, California since 2003. He is an executive committee member of the Board of Directors for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, co-founder and co-chair of AFPI, Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative and is co-chair of J-Street's Los Angeles Rabbinic Cabinet.
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