Is it Wrong to Hope?

I know that one of the purposes of a blog is to get something out in cyberspace as quickly as possible. And, sometimes I write blog posts in a few minutes, press “publish” and get on with my life.

But, I’ve been working on this particular posting for two or three weeks now and still am not sure that I have come up with just the right words to say.

In the weeks since the conflict in Gaza, there have been many debates in many different media between knowledgeable, respectable members of the Jewish community in which people who proudly call themselves Zionists and who have demonstrated concern for the State of Israel have been called naive at best, traitors at worst, for continuing to believe in the possibility of the two state solution.

It is unclear to me precisely what has changed over the past few months that would have caused this development. After all, the government of Israel still professes a belief in the two state solution, even as it claims that there is no partner for negotiations. Yes, the past few days have seen a recurrence of rhetoric from Hamas leaders claiming to seek the destruction of Israel. But, that has always been their claim and despite that claim, Israel continued to claim that it would seek negotiations with the Palestinian Authority regarding the future of the West Bank.

I find these accusations of disloyalty or naivete to be unfair and feel that they present, for all of us, a very serious challenge.

First, let me say without question that I take Hamas at their word. I believe that there are many within the Palestinian people who do desire the destruction of Israel. I do not believe that a peace settlement would immediately silence those voices. I would like to believe that a peace settlement would strengthen those with a more moderate view towards Israel and clearly many in Israel feel the same way.

But, the decision by Israel to proceed with settlement expansion in the “E1 area” between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim and within East Jerusalem itself, is so terribly troubling. These two plans, especially at this moment, would appear to signify a major roadblock towards the possibility of a viable Palestinian state and to any compromise concerning the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Certainly the “1967 borders- or cease fire lines- with land swaps” would presume that Maaleh Adumim would remain in Israel and that would require some kind of creative solution which would not cut off a future Palestinian state from Jerusalem or have a state which is essentially bisected by Israeli territory. But, it would appear that such building plans sends the wrong message at the wrong time (as Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Hartman Institute discussed in his latest posting which you can find through the website at, it is entitled “Red Light Green Light”).

If it is true that Israel has given up on the 2 state solution, I would ask the following question: what then is the vision that Israel would like leaders of the American Jewish community to put before American Jews? What will the future of the State of Israel be? Will Israel annex the West Bank and either expel all non-Jews (God forbid) or deny citizenship (God forbid)? Or, will Israel say, the vision is maintaining the status quo. Well, for thirty years as a Rabbi, I have been struggling with the fact that the status quo is unacceptable. While I don’t question for a moment that the Palestinians have undermined the peace process many times, I believe Israel’s latest decisions have done the same at a time when it seems the possibilities of a negotiated settlement are dimming. I would not expect Israel to sign a peace agreement if it believed it would seriously weaken its security. But, I do expect Israel to continue to hope for peace and, in the context of the past few weeks, I believe those of us who tell our congregants that as Jews, we continue to believe that the future can be better than the present should be honored, rather than disparaged and mocked.

I do not believe that those of us who dare to talk about hopes for peace and who expressed heartbreaking sadness at deepening conflicts are being traitors or are necessarily being naive. I believe that it is part of our life as Jews to hope, to continue to believe in a better time. No, it will not be easy and yes, we need to listen to voices within Israel who face the threats more directly than we do. But, I believe we can’t give up on these dreams and these hopes.

3 thoughts on “Is it Wrong to Hope?

  1. Deborah

    If it’s wrong to hope we wouldn’t have children, vote, or anything else that is forward looking. Rather, we must find ways to ‘solve’ this problem. Locally for me, I tutor with Washtenaw Literacy because it so angers me that adults can’t read in this county.
    There must be a way similar activities can be done from here. We can start by insisting that the money we send to plant trees in Israel is not detrimental to Palestinian land owners. SPURN addressing some similar issues now.

  2. Laurel Federbush

    I guess I have one of your “God forbid” views, since I think the Palestinians are Israel’s enemy and need to be decisively vanquished. Humane people like yourself recoil from that idea, but anything short of that just drags out the war. Having a Palestinian state would make it easier for the terrorists to organize and carry out attacks on Israel. The Torah is clear about how to deal with an implacable enemy of the Jewish people.

  3. I really, really appreciate this post and I do think you got the words right.
    The other day I was struck by a Facebook post that Rabbi Jill Jacobs of RHR-NA put up. I guess she was at the Obamas’ Chanukah party and she introduced herself and RHR-NA, and she said to the President something along the lines of, “We are counting on you to help achieve peace in the Middle East,” and he said to her, “The thing is, the people *over there* have to want to achieve peace.” This strikes me as very accurate.
    I don’t want a Jewish fundamentalist state (actually, I don’t want any kind of fundamentalist state) and if the choice becomes “Jewish or democratic” then I will choose democratic. If it comes to a one-state solution, and that “solution” includes expelling non-Jews or denying citizenship to people (non-Jews, Palestinians, or any other “grouping”), that would mean that the hoped-for Jewish state has failed, and Jews have become the oppressors they hated. A democratic single state, on the other hand, has a different set of perils (losing the Jewish nature of the state. . . and depending on what we mean by “Jewish” that could be sad. . . but if that’s a fundamentalist type of Jewish state, what is the loss there?)
    In the meantime, Michael and I have been reading Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman’s graphic novel, “Not the Israel my parents promised me,” and it grapples with the issues you discuss here. It’s a quick read (and it’s an awesome book) and if you want us to lend it to you in January, let me know.

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