Last week the Palestinians came before the United Nations to ask for recognition as a State. It is nearly 64 years ago that the United Nations decided to form the Jewish State of Israel. At that time my father found himself dancing the Hora all night on the streets of Tel Aviv. But euphoria soon gave way to the grim reality of what it means when two peoples both lay claim to the same small piece of land. And it wasn’t many years later that my father had left Israel for good, feeling that the Palestinians’ claim to the land outweighed his own and he did not wish to spend the rest of his life in such a conflict.
Several generations have grown up since that day and the conflict over the land has only entrenched itself multiple times, with thousands of casualties, endless hurt, and countless embittered souls.
In the unlikely event that the resolution to recognize the Palestinian State does pass the United Nations, it would certainly be a milestone for the Palestinian people to have this international backing. But would it solve any of the underlying causes of the conflict? Would it help much in bringing peace and stability to the region?
I asked my 82-year-old father what he thinks it would take for a Palestinian State to flourish, so that the hate and hurt can be healed on both sides. I should have known what he would say, because he has the same answer for every question, however knotty, that he is presented with. On a social, political, or personal level it is always the same: “forgiveness.” I was somewhat put out that this was all he could say. I know he personally has gone several times to ask Palestinians for forgiveness for his part in the 1948 war, a forgiveness he was graciously granted. But am I supposed to imagine that Hamas and Hezbollah would ask the Jews for forgiveness? Let alone Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, and all their friends asking the Palestinians? And a genuine forgiveness that leads to all the deeds of reconciliation and reconstruction that would follow? This is talking about a miracle of a force well beyond the Richter scale.
I am reminded of an excerpt of a poem by Seamus Heaney:
History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.*
As I ponder about miracles and cures and healing wells, it occurs to me that this same small piece of land which carries such a load of blood guilt is the same place that is also the most saturated in miracles. It is here where all the miracles of the Bible took place. It is also the place where the words were spoken: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” So then, do I believe that is it possible for there to be true peace in the Holy Land? Do you believe it?
* Excerpt from The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney.