The push for peace: Don’t stop now!

I have been fighting for peace, fighting for the dream of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the past two decades. Ever since that fateful night, November 4, 1995, when I watched the horrible images of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination, from my apartment in Jerusalem, I knew this would be my life’s work. I stand with, and on the shoulders of, those Israelis who fought and believed in peace for the past 64 years and still do. Rabin inspired me that we can change, we can hope, we can believe in a dream. And in that believing, we can make it a reality. It won’t be easy, nothing of serious consequence ever is, but it is possible.

We know things are getting serious in the negotiations when both sides have their extreme elements coming out with rallies, prognostications, doubts and threats. Palestinians are saying there is no plan, that they are being cheated, that Israelis will never agree to anything. Israelis are rallying at the Western Wall, praying that peace efforts fail, saying that God will protect them from the dangerous dealings of the devil known as Kerry. Knesset ministers are squabbling and attacking in public; Palestinian officials are calling for more “resistance,” which while that could and should be non-violent, we all fear that is code for violence.  This is what happens, and has happened in every generation, when there is an attempt to get closer to the goal: two-states for two peoples, with compromises on both sides, with security arrangements that both sides need to implement, with a trust that is needed but doesn’t yet exist, with the history of the Jews coming back to the Land of Israel and the Arabs not wanting that reality to be so.

The future of Jewish sovereignty depends on the sound and brave leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu, to stand firm against the extremists that are trying to drive him to squander the best hope for the future of Israel. Boycotts are expanding, isolation is expanding, fear is rising, reason and sane thinking is faltering; we need leadership now and that requires not necessarily being popular. The majority of Israelis, when asked, want to have two-states for two people. They just don’t have faith that it can happen. The Prime Minister’s job, like any head of state, is to inspire that faith. As the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of the State of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu is historically poised to deliver a future of security and peace to Israel and the Middle East.

I write now as a Jew, as a rabbi, as a father, as a Zionist, as someone who has lived in the land, cares about the land, has friends who have sacrificed for the land, and who understands the serious dangers that Israel is facing. I pray that the Palestinians can also listen to reason, and to those few, but brave, Arab leaders who are calling for peace with Israel. They exist, but are being ignored or shunned.

But, as a Jew, I write to call on my brothers and sisters, in the State of Israel, to march forth with strength and conviction and not let another chance for a peace accord slip away. As an American Jewish leader, I stand with thousands of other Jewish leaders, with my colleagues in J-Street, T’ruah, Peace Now, New Israel Fund, Just Vision and others, who are praying for and supporting those majority of Israelis who are ready to make this dream a reality. I stand with Ari Shavit, who has written with eloquence, how and why this needs to happen now. And, in Secretary Kerry and President Obama, we have two leaders committed to the safety and security of Israel, as well as to the dream of peace.

Those thousands who gathered at the Kotel to pray against Kerry, and against the hope for peace: are they who represent Israel? I encourage all those who support ending the occupation and sustaining an Israel that lives in the reality of today and not in some false messianism of another world, to reach out to those who are rallying against peace and share your views. And, I encourage you to rally yourselves, return to the streets, raise your voices, stand strong, demand that fear not crush the hopes of our truest aspirations: an Israel living in peace with her neighbors. Rabin was murdered for seeking to achieve that aspiration. We cannot and must not let a tragedy like that happen again.

We know that internal Jewish hatred and disunity is what destroyed us the last time we held sovereignty in Jerusalem. Let’s not let that tragic history repeat itself. V’eem lo achshav, aimatai, if not now, when? If that eternal Jewish teaching ever held any meaning, now is certainly the time.

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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