Remembering and Hoping for a Better Future

Israeli and Palestinian Women singing Hava Alberstein's Chad Gadya
Israeli and Palestinian Women singing Hava Alberstein's Chad Gadya

Last week I attended the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony, which was co-sponsored for the 14th year in a row by two excellent peace organizations which operate in both Israel and Palestine: The Parents Circle–Families Forum and Combatants for Peace It was a profoundly moving experience, attended by about 10,000 Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinian Arabs, as well as 100 Palestinians from the West Bank.

On the day before the ceremony, both organizations won a small “victory” with the Israeli Supreme Court, which permitted 100 Palestinians from the West Bank to attend the ceremony, overturning the Minister of Defense’s attempt to forbid them from attending for the second year in a row. The Supreme Court made it clear that it was completely wrong for Netanyahu, who is both Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, to try to interfere with this, since each person has a right to express his or her grief in the manner in which they see fit. Last year, the court overturned the attempt of then Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who also tried to keep Palestinians away from this important event.

The Supreme Court is one of the last bastions of Israeli democracy, as is our judicial system in general, despite constant attempts by right-wing politicians to impede or limit its authority. It is hoped that our judicial system will also move forward with the indictments against PM Netanyahu this summer, and then try him and put him in jail for his criminal acts in some of the most major corruption scandals in Israeli history

But now back to the memorial ceremony last week.  Like everything else in Israel, it was a mixture of bad news and good news. Naturally the mainstream media focused more on the bad news, but I will focus on the good parts.

The bad news was the presence of about 200 extreme right Jewish extremists who yelled and cursed at us in despicable language as we peacefully entered and exited from the well-guarded area where the ceremony took place. These people represent the worst of Israeli society and they should be condemned in no uncertain terms, but the silence on this matter on the part of most of our political “leaders” was deafening. Not only that but the Prime Ministers’ son, Yair Netanyahu, tweeted some of his own horrible venom against those of us who decided to observe Memorial Eve in Israel in this meaningful way, but his Mommy and Daddy said nothing about this, thus tacitly supporting his ideas. Indeed, much of the incitement in Israel in recent years emanates from the home of the Prime Minister and the various twitter accounts therein.

The good news was the wonderful feeling of peace and coexistence among the approximately 10,000 people in attendance at this joint memorial ceremony, despite the efforts of the fanatics to disrupt this. With “Sharing Sorrow, Bringing Hope” as the theme of the evening, we were privileged to hear both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews mourn their loved ones publicly, as well as having the opportunity to listen pensively to beautiful music by Palestinian and Israeli musicians and joint Palestinian-Israeli choirs.

Among the mourners was a 26-year-old Palestinian woman from Ramallah (who grew up in Gaza) who said:

We will join hearts and join hands for the realization of an inner peace that will come out and bring peace to all of us.

The event ended with the singing of Chava Alberstein’s famous rendition of Chad Gadya, written originally in 1989, during the Lebanon War and during the First Intifada (Arabic for uprising) which ends with these haunting words:

Why are you singing this traditional song?
It’s not yet spring and Passover’s not here.
And what has changed for you? What has changed?
I have changed this year.
On all other nights I ask the four questions, but tonight I have one more:
How long will the cycle last?
How long will the cycle of violence last?

The chased and the chaser
The beaten and the beater
When will all this madness end?
I used to be a kid and a peaceful sheep
Today I am a tiger and a ravenous wolf.
I used to be a dove and I used to be a deer,
Today I don’t know who I am anymore.

Deezvan abba beetray zuzay…
And we start all over again.

And then 10,000 people left the ceremony quietly, with sorrowful memories and yet with hope in their hearts for peace in the future, for the benefit of all human beings in the region.

Perhaps the cycle of violence will end one day after 100,000 people or 1 million Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs come to this ceremony and declare “we have had enough!”

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017. He is currently working on a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine.
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