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Hope in Hard Times

We live in hard times, but we need not go numb or give up for there is also much that is hopeful.

It seems that the news is always full of, well, bad news, such as the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The seemingly intractable war between these two groups has gone on for decades. Too often, all we see in the news are stories of new rocket attacks, new bombings, new assassinations, and implacable hatred.

But that is not the whole truth. In her book, From Enemy To Friend, Rabbi Amy Eilberg reports the existence of a different reality. She informs us of “The Bereaved Parents Circle,” which is an organization that brings together families from both sides who have had loved ones killed by the other side. She attended one of their meetings. Two men spoke: Rami (an Israeli) whose 14 year old daughter was killed in a terrorist attack while buying school supplies and Mazen (a Palestinian) whose unarmed father was riddled with bullets by Israeli soldiers for no reason. Each told his story.

Then they told the story of an Israeli attack in Gaza aimed at assassinating a terrorist leader which instead killed many sleeping children. Following the attack, local Jews donated blood to help wounded Palestinians. When asked how they could donate blood to “the enemy,” they replied: “It is better to give blood than to spill it.” They started a project in which Palestinians and Jews then donated to a blood bank to help wounded across the region. Then Rami and Mazen, calling each other “brother,” said to the assembled crowd.

“Take this picture with you, the picture of the two of us together. Tell people that it is possible for Palestinians and Israelis to work together for peace. And if it is possible for us, who have paid the highest price, it is possible for anyone.”

On 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” We live in hard times. Climate peril, deteriorating oceans, toxic chemicals, wars, desperate poverty, shootings – you name it – are all too familiar. It would be easy to fall into despair. And while we must squarely face the reality of our times, we need not go numb or give up for there is also much that is hopeful. Out of these stones of hope we can build a world community living peacefully with each other and sustainably with the earth.