Part 5 (final)

Committing to a Different Tomorrow

Let me close with one of the most compelling moments of this trip, one that connects most deeply to our Rosh Hashanah liturgy with its theme of teshuvah, of repentance.  Today is Yom Hadin – the day we are judged by the Eternal One.  We are called to look for our errors, how we may have hurt others and to perform teshuvah.  The rabbis delineate a three step process of reconciliation for teshuvah.  First, stating explicitly what we did wrong.  Second, saying we are sorry.  Third, stating that we will not do it again.

On the second to last day of our trip, we spent hours at the incredibly powerful new museum at Yad Vashem.  Afterwards, we planned a short memorial service for the six million.  Unbeknownst to the three rabbis in the group, the Christian clergy added to this a Christian “service of repentance” asking us for forgiveness for the role of Christianity in the Shoah.  I cannot begin to explain the power of that moment of repentance and the reconciling, healing love that we all felt in that space.  Suffice it to say, not a dry eye was present.

This was the power of teshuvah.  My Christian friends had done teshuvah for something their religion was connected to – they stated it, they asked for forgiveness and committed themselves to a different tomorrow.

That is what needs to take place for Israel and the Palestinians.  There needs to be a real process of teshuvah, or reconciliation, as part of the new peace process.   Both Israelis and Palestinians must own and state the wrongs that they have done to each other.  They must ask for forgiveness.  They must declare that they will not return to those behaviors, but build a new tomorrow.

The processes of reconciliation in South Africa and Northern Ireland brought healing to deep mistrust and hurt and now, the Israelis and Palestinians – both their leaders and their peoples must follow suit.  As, James Carroll, wrote about Israelis and Palestinians in Monday’s Globe, “Having separately been imprisoned by the past, only together can they create a future that is free.”

We met two young men from an organization called One Voice: a Palestinian and an Israeli.  They told their stories and how they are committed to building a different tomorrow, one that is built on peace.  They showed us the statistics – even with all the mistrust, the terrorism and hurt, about 70% of Israelis and Palestinians believe in and desire a two-state solution.  They held out a vision of hope amidst all the pain and suffering.

I am not naïve.  There are many challenges.  I know that there are competing narratives, but if Bibi and Abbas can create a new vision, a new compromise and a spirit of reconciliation can be born, then perhaps there will be peace.

This is it, my friends.  Israel is risking a tremendous amount for peace.  Israel needs us.  Let’s be there for Israel this year. 

May this new year be the year we work harder for Israel, harder for peace, stronger for religious freedom and do more to build our connection to Israel.