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Dear Israel: In Mid-Life, You Can Let Go Of Your Anger

Dear Israel, Your son, the poet Yehuda Amichai, once described you as a land divided into two districts: memory and hope. The residents of each district mingle with each other; they are, Amichai tells us, either returning from a funeral … Read More

By / May 7, 2008

Dear Israel,

Your son, the poet Yehuda Amichai, once described you as a land divided into two districts: memory and hope. The residents of each district mingle with each other; they are, Amichai tells us, either returning from a funeral or a wedding.

Contemplating you at sixty I find myself planting my feet in both of your districts of memory and hope — a man simultaneously returning from a funeral and a wedding.

At sixty, you are a wedding of land and idea, a fantastical union over two thousand years in the making. It is no wonder that it took the imagination of a playwright to father your present incarnation into concrete existence. People doubted you all along. They said of your parents (who are also your children) that they are dreamers; that they have no right; and that they are going against the hand of God. But your fathers and mothers replied, "If you will it, it is no dream!" That “history gives us a right.” And that sometimes “miracles need help to materialize.”

Having had you as a constant during all of our lives, it is hard for us to really appreciate how implausible your existence really is. How implausible of you to have maintained an identity throughout your long and deracinating winter of exile. How implausible of you, after two millennia, to have found your way back home. How implausible of you after just a few decades to revive a civilization and create one of the most scientifically, artistically, and intellectually able countries in the world. I look at this giant mountain of implausibility, and I see you in your true glory.

Indeed, you have taught us the virtue of patience, tenacity, and optimism. You have, once again, given us a home. A home that in the coarse voice and words of my grandmother, a woman who survived that terrible night under the European skies, is the only place in the world where the words "dirty Jew" mean a Jew who has not taken a shower. At sixty years young, you are an amazing success story and we are your grateful children.

But grateful does not mean blind. When you shine a light on an object, you are also bound to get its shadow. And there is no escaping the fact that your shadow is Palestine.

Today, dear Israel, you are standing on the back of another people. A people who have become a broken mirror image of yourself. They dream your dream, fear your fears, and suffer your pains. Just like you they drink from the wellspring of their grandmother’s tears and they nourish their souls on their grandfather’s scars. Just like you, they are rooted in holy soil, and they too are inheritors of an unholy land.

It is true that you vowed to "never again" let your children experience homelessness and hell. It is also true that many times you were provoked. But you have wielded your power at great costs. Time and again, your insistence on "just being" has blinded you to your divine and historical purpose: To be a light onto the nations. To carry forward the great wisdom, ethical, and spiritual teachings of your ancestors.

The funeral that your son Amichai spoke of is not just for your fallen sons and daughters. It also for your fallen ideals and morality. No, dear Israel, I do not want you to be a handicapped civilization. Like everyone else you have a right to defend yourself. But today, your feet are planted on someone else’s districts of hope and memory. Could there be a more profoundly un-Jewish place in which to stand?

Your history has taught us that as long as you do not leave Palestine, she will never leave you. The truth of the matter is that the greatest gift that you can give for your birthday is to lend a hand in creating a birthday for the Palestinian state. Don’t settle for just removing yourself, help construct a positive future for your sister nation. I know these are difficult words to comprehend and accept. But with sixty years comes experience and wisdom. I have faith in you. After all, you have overcome more implausible challenges.

With Love, Roi

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