“How do you remain hopeful?” This question was asked again this week. And sometimes it is hard to formulate an answer. Yet as I participated in the peace march on Saturday night in the heart of West Jerusalem ~ standing together with 2,000 Jews and Palestinians holding signs proclaiming their refusal to be enemies, exposing the racism, and calling for an end to the occupation ~ I experienced a moment of grace ~ a moment of hope ~ a realization of what could be possible.
Gush Shalom, the Israeli “Peace Bloc” was one of the primary organizers. Their rallying cry was: We will not surrender to despair ~ We will stand together! From their call to action, I quote: “Neither the terrible violence in the streets nor the fear was created in a vacuum. We must struggle against the root of this bloody cycle: A regime of control and separation that denies millions of Palestinians their right to freedom and equality. The Jerusalem Municipality distances itself from responsibility, and the government of Israel ignores the urgent need to address the root of the conflict. Instead, the authorities simply continue to pour gasoline onto the fire of incitement and violence.” Two quotes from the rally stand out for me ~ One from a Jewish Israeli activist teacher: “We came here to show that…Israelis and Palestinians can stand together and move toward a different policy, a policy of a just peace” ~ And another from a Jewish Israeli activist lawyer: “We are calling for an end to the occupation and to racism. There is an alternative. We can live in peace and understanding.”
Also this weekend, in 60 cities in 17 countries around the world, people took to the streets. Protests and rallies in solidarity with Palestine were planned in Columbia and Brazil, Basque country and Slovenia, Norway and Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, the UK, Scotland and Ireland, the US and Canada! This would not have happened a few years ago. This too is a sign of hope.
So, yes, I am hopeful, even though at times I struggle to hope in the midst of what appears hopeless. Appearances aside, I believe that despair is not an option. The dream of peace may not become a reality in our lifetime, but we must work toward it nonetheless ~ simply because it is the right and just thing to do. Our highest values as human beings demand it. Our faith in all that is good and right and holy ~ life itself ~ requires it. We are called to do justice and love mercy. And even if the dream is a distant hope ~ we must hope nonetheless. As the poet Emily Dickinson reminds us:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
And neither can we …