Early July brought us the grim news of the murder of three Jewish Israeli teens followed by the even more gruesome revenge murder of a Palestinian teen. What followed was tragically predictable: crackdowns, rioting, Hamas-launched rocket attacks, Israel’s response in Gaza with “Operation Protective Edge.” Cue the talking-heads and pontificators of every stripe.

Call it “deja Jew”…..that feeling that we’ve been here before, felt these same feelings all too often, seen the same gruesome video footage, read the same helpful/unhelpful analyses, wrung our hands collectively in precisely the same way as before, listened to the same debates about moral equivalencies, power imbalances and the justifications for violence which inevitably and invariably claim the innocent along with (so few) of the guilty.

The cynical part of me who channels Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) concludes “ain kol chadash tachat ha-shamesh” (“there is nothing new under the sun”); the part of me who holds fast to Judaism’s mandate never to despair searches frantically for glimmers of hope that, in my lifetime, there will be an end to the Israel-Arab conflict. I long for the (illusory?) clarity of my youth when my image and understanding of Israel were untarnished by the complicated truths that have evolved as I became an adult.

I consider myself a Zionist, fully committed to the thriving existence of the Jewish State of Israel. But my life is led here in America, by chance and by choice, and my influence on the decisions taken by the government of Israel are virtually nil. Like a passionate World Cup fan, I sit on the sidelines agonizing over what is transpiring in front of me, transfixed but essentially helpless to effect the outcome. I’ve no prophetic powers, no deep insights that I haven’t gleaned from the same sources to which you turn for an understanding of what is transpiring.

Where do I find tikvah (hope) when I manage to find some? In stories like this:

“The families of murdered Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel and murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir are drawing comfort from an unexpected source: each other.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat took to Facebook […] to write about an ‘emotional and special telephone conversation between two families that have lost their sons.’ He said that during his visit to the Fraenkel family home, he had a chance to speak to Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s father, and express pain at the ‘barbaric’ murder of his son.

Barkat then suggested that Abu Khdeir speak to Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of Naftali Fraenkel who recently told the press that “the life of an Arab is equally precious to that of a Jew. Blood is blood, and murder is murder, whether that murder is Jewish or Arab.” The two men took Barkat’s advice and comforted one another by telephone.

In a separate visit organized by Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, chair of the religious council of Gush Etzion, Palestinians from the Hebron area showed up at the door of the Fraenkel family, looking to comfort the bereaved.

Asked why they had come, one Palestinian said, ‘Things will only get better when we learn to cope with each other’s pain and stop getting angry at each other. Our task is to give strength to the family and also to take a step toward my nation’s liberation. We believe that the way to our liberation is through the hearts of Jews.’ He later said that the visit went very well from his perspective. ‘They received us very, very nicely. The mother [Rachel Fraenkel] was incredible.’

‘I see before me a Jewish family who has lost a son opening the door to me,’ he added. ‘That’s not obvious. It touched my heart and my nation.’”

Read the article here: http://forward.com/articles/201500/families-of-slain-israeli-and-palestinian-teens-tu/#ixzz37A9Mn5P5

When we truly wish for our enemies what we wish for ourselves then, perhaps, a true peace will take root.

Reb Elias