Every week we pray in the words: veshav Ya’akov veshakat vesha’anan, may the descendants of Jacob return [to their historic ancient home] and find quiet and tranquillity.
My father’s uncle, who found refuge in Palestine from Nazi Germany and had been destined to play a major role in the early legislature of the state, wrote shortly after the end of the Second World War of his travels to different kibbutzim through a land in blossom. It’s a beautiful country, he said, if only they let us live in peace. He was killed in the convoy ambushed on the way to the Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University less than a month before the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.
Sixty-eight years later quiet and tranquillity are still elusive, and many thousands of soldiers and civilians across at least three generations have given their lives for our country. Grief is a universe of its own and obeys no conventional laws of time: we stand in quiet reflection and silent solidarity with all who long for voices they will never again hear and the companionship of those who never came home. Perhaps no one has written more poignantly than David Grossman, following the loss of his son, in Falling Out of Time
In August he died, and / when that month was over, I wondered
How can I move / to September
While he remains / in August?
We acknowledge, too, with pain and regret, the loss of all innocent life; we know that heartache and sorrow know no boundaries of nationality or religion. Grief is grief; injury is injury; fear is fear.
At the same time, we affirm our commitment to life and hope and to making our own personal contribution to the wellbeing of Israel, which, we hope and pray, will be part of the peace and wellbeing of all peoples in the region, as the founders of the State declared:
the country [will be developed] for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions…
We hope that the time will soon come when the country will not be threatened by the imminence of further conflict, when fear will be diminished, when justice and peace will dominate public discourse and action in Israel and among its neighbours, and Israel’s remarkable achievements will be properly recognised and appreciated and bring benefit across the region and the world.
However hard the times, that remains Hatikvah, our Hope.