‘And give you peace:’ these words, which we read in the Torah tomorrow, could not sound with greater urgency. They command us to be on the side of the healers, wherever and through whatever we live. Sometimes this is obvious and easy. Sometimes it demands the greatest vison and courage.
Just hours ago, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began. We must pray not only that it endures, but that it brings negotiations which lead to more than a temporary cessation in killing, to something which brings not just brief respite but well-founded hope to all, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs.
The rockets and bombs have left terrible new wounds and torn old injuries open. ‘When the siren went, my first thought was “I am a mother”,’ said an Israeli colleague with a six-month-old baby. What can one possibly say to parents in Gaza, or Israel, who have seen their child torn apart?
Frightful, too, are the wounds which cannot be captured in searing pictures: from the impact of fear, from the knowledge that there are those who want you dead, from the long-term effects of terror and trauma on the heart and psyche. ‘No one wanted to kill me in the place where I grew up,’ said an Israeli friend.
All around are the wound-harvesters, collecting the pain, anger, dread and frustration as ammunition for the next round of hate. They find no shortage of evidence to back their cases.
That is why it is so important to stand alongside the healers. It would be easy to underestimate the courage of those many groups of Jews and Arabs who have stood together, despite the destruction and threats, in Jerusalem at the Jaffa Gate, in Zichron, in Haifa and elsewhere. This is an act of inner as well as outer, courage under fire, in defiance of the voices which say, ‘Can’t you see, they all hate us?’
Here are the words of some of the leaders:
Living in Sderot, just a short distance from Gaza, I feel the explosions twice. I feel them at home and I feel them as they happen among our neighbours, the Palestinians in Gaza. Today we must and will continue to put the divine demand to “love your neighbour – your fellow human being – as you would love yourself” to the test. Avi Dabush, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights
Today we are facing a test…on how we communicate to these young people that to be a hero means taking responsibility and to change reality, not through violence, hatred and incitement. Being a hero demands courage to talk, to meet reality head on. It demands strength and resilience. This is what we, as adults, must give to our kids. Parents, religious leaders, political leaders must take this mission up and go out and be with our young people, to meet them and speak with them and think with them about what we need to do to restore trust and faith. Ghadir Hani, Palestinian Israeli and activist.
Like everyone, I have read reports and opinions of all kinds, and failed or avoided reading many more. In the end, I don’t know where better to stand, albeit from a distance, than in support of the healers and bridge-builders. For the wounds of fear, grief, trauma and injustice cut to the heart on both sides.
My prayers are with these words, written together by Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum and Sheikh Ibtisam Mahameed in Jerusalem:
God of Life!
You who heal the broken hearted, binding up our wounds…
Hear our voice that we not despair…
That we have mercy on one another…
That we hope together, one for another…*
* The full text can be found here.