Tzedek, tzedek tirdof

How does one look at the enormity of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and honorably call for let alone usher in justice. The asymmetrical power difference has generated a war of terror followed by military reaction led by military action followed by terror. On a much more personal level people are maimed by Israeli settlers taking vengeance and Palestinians attacking a settlement. Rocks against tanks was the sine qua non of the First Intifada and the response of Prime Minister Rabin, (although disputed by his wife) was; “We will brake their bones.” There are so many points of contention in a hundred year history of crisis and many of us stand on the banks of the Atlantic as Jewish American’s calling out Oy vey! Some of us do more. But it is hard to look in the face of a disaster, (that is what life has become for many Palestinians), and not blush and turn away or become completely overwhelmed by the acts of Israelis that seem to exceed the requirements of defense and trample on the meaning of justice. I watch, people get angry defending the rights of Israelis while others get angry defending the rights of Palestinians.

And here we stand in 2012/5772 on the cusp of the New Year looking into our hearts, considering our sins and asking G-d for forgiveness. How do I let alone other American Jews and still more Jews around the world and even in Israel repent in a way that guarantees the safety of our sisters and brothers in Israel and at the same time opens the door to justice for our cousins the Palestinians? How do we transcend the context of a battle that appears eternal to those tasked with upholding the future of Israel and those tasked with destroying that very future?

Is it possible for wisdom to guide us all toward something better, a new level of understanding that encourages conversation to replace conflict and negotiation to result in a meaningful agreement that will bring Palestinians and Israelis alike to a new and better relationship and begin to engender a real and lasting peace? Hope springs eternal. But it has been said by many that faith in such a prospect stems from an infatuation with naivety. The powder keg of the Middle East has belittled the best efforts of presidents and politicians, pundits and peacemakers alike.

And yet we open the Torah this Shabbat and read the words; Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof; Justice, justice shall you pursue. It is a call to our hearts. It is a call to come home. It is a call to reach beyond all that has come before, to seek, ask for and offer forgiveness. It is a time that asks a great deal of each of us and all of us falling just days after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. We share so very much with our Muslim and Christian family. We all have the capacity to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4;

And He shall judge between the nations                                                      And shall decide for many peoples;                                                        And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,                                           And their spears into pruning-hooks;                                                       Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,                                      Neither shall they learn war any more.

We are a people born to offer light to the world. It is our destiny to seek and find and share that light so that all of us can walk together out of the darkness.


The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.


About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.