Looking for good news? Me too. For the past few weeks, the brokenness and meanness in the world have dominated the news. At home and abroad, it seems that people of good will are in short supply. Not to mention the floundering Red Sox. (Are they really trading John Lester?)
If we are to follow Rev Nachman of Bratslav’s exhortation “do not despair” then we need to hear more hopeful news to carry us through these dark times.
And so, I bring you a smattering of good news stories.
- A few years ago we befriended Thaer Abdallah, a Palestinian artist who spoke at Human Rights Shabbat about being a refugee. Thaer shared his artistic work which illustrated his journey as a Palestinian refugee fleeing Iraq. He managed to survive the Syrian war and emigrated to the United states, got married and fathered a son. Yet he was grieved by the estrangement from his mother, who remained in the Middle East. After a great deal of effort, his mother arrived in Boston on Tuesday, meeting her grandson Yusef for the first time.
- This week I also received an update from Hand in Hand Schools in Israel. Some members may recall several years ago when the Chaverim School contributed our annual tsedaka collection to the schools, whose mission is “to create a strong and inclusive shared society in Israel through a network of Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools and organized communities.” The schools are located in five areas, including Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and the Galilee with 1,100 Jewish and Arab students and more than 3,000 community members.
Sunday night, the two principals (Jewish and Arab) of the Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem discovered anti-Arab graffiti scrawled on the school’s entrance. With the help of Jerusalem’s mayor, the graffiti was erased before the children arrived the next morning. The principals responded to this cowardly act, not with fear or anger, but with the following statement: “Our school will continue to educate towards love of our fellow human beings, mutual listening and true cooperation between Jews and Arabs." The pictures are worth a thousand words, overpowering the effect of the graffiti itself.
I also found more thoughtful and balanced sources for all of us to ponder and share as we are united as a community in finding an end to violence. I continue to urge you to seek out ways to bring people together, rather than tear us further apart. As my sister wrote to me from her home in the West Bank, “Please thank your congregants for their prayers and support. We don't have to agree on the solutions, we just have to love one another.”
- If you’re still looking for some anguish from Israelis, read singer Achinoam Nini’s (Noa) empassioned plea, “Open Letter to the Wind” and then listen to the song she recorded several years ago with Mira Awad “There Must be Another Way.”
- Gershom Gorenberg provides insights into the chain of events—on both sides—that led to the war and the way that the brain warps decision-making, in the article in The American Prospect, “This Is Your Brain on War: A Dispatch From Jerusalem/ Why both sides in the Gaza conflict saw irrational decisions as reasonable.” His closing line is especially compelling , quoting a Hebrew adage, “A clever man climbs out of a hole that a wise man wouldn't fall in.”
- And if you’d like some talking points that honor both narratives (or you know someone else who would appreciate this kind of balanced perspective) I recommend “7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict” on the Huffington Post. It’s one of the most surprising analyses I’ve read, especially since it’s written by Ali A. Rizvi a Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician.
For twenty years, Brian and I have subscribed to Eretz Magazine, a glossy Israeli publication in English, highlighting the beauty, history and culture of the Land of Israel that we love so much. I want to close by sharing the message that came in our subscription renewal letter that arrived in the mail this week:
“As violence erupts once again around Gaza, with missiles flying and canons (sic) roaring, the real question is not who or what started this round of fighting, but where are the wise, brave leaders who can end the cycle of violence.”
With pain in my gut and hope in my heart, I pray that we all may be privileged to contribute to that vision and help see it come to fruition.
B’ezrat Hashem / Insha'Allah
Rabbi Barbara Penzner