I’m often asked by visiting journalists, politicians and academics as to what my solution is. I reject “the Two State Solution” and I’m not prepared for Israel to stop being a Jewish state. I wish neither to give citizenship to all Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, nor to expel them. I’m great at saying, “No” but rarely say “Yes”. What is my solution? How will I bring about peace and prosperity to all peoples of the Middle East in our lifetimes?
My father made ten years after his children and was already quite sick with Parkinson’s disease. It is a cruel affliction that creeps up on you slowly. Later it transpired that he may have had signs for five or more years, but told nobody. The years in which he lived and died in Jerusalem were by far the pinnacle of his life. He once told me that he would have taken them rather than any number of healthy years in London.
During that time my mother searched for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. No stone was left unturned and no doctor uncontacted. She joined and then ran a support group in Jerusalem that would meet, and where other desperate spouses would exchange information of new drugs, possibilities of surgery and so on.
After several years a change took place. While my mother never actually gave up, there did come a time when they both came to terms with the fact that at that point in time the miracle cure just didn’t exist. There were ways to slow down deterioration and even improve the quality of life, but at that moment there was no “solution”.
One might think that the realization that not every problem has a solution or in the words of Johnny Cash, “There are more questions than answers” would lead to a state of desolation or despondency, but quite the contrary. That is exactly the point where you life goes off being on hold and you begin to live again. Maybe you’ll never run again, but there are plenty of places to walk to. Maybe you’ll be forever falling over, but you’ll be forever getting up too. And there are children to reprimand and grandchildren to enjoy and there is a G-d in heaven to serve too, who waits for the prayers of the sick as he does for the healthy.
Last week Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke about the peace process and predicted that there would be no peace, “not next year and not for the next generation”. On the face of it this was a message of pessimism and gloom, hardly appropriate for the eve of our Jewish new year when we traditionally wish each other the realization of all manner of wonderful aspirations. However, I contend that Lieberman’s blessing was the blessing of hope. He was taking a cold realistic look at the neighborhood in which we live and at our neighbors. He had the courage pragmatically to look at the Arab world for what it is, not what it might be one day or what we’d like it to be.
We live in the Middle East, not the US Mid-West or even the West End. Our neighbors, for the most part, are vastly more radical than either their fathers or grandfathers were. This has come about as a result of the spread of fundamentalist Islam and because Israel has shown weaknesses on various occasions, convincing them that the only language we understand is force.
Short of the Messiah arriving, there will indeed be no peace in either our or our children’s generation. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today is to learn to live with the fact that this is indeed a problem without a solution.
Of course everyone has a plan, but experience has shown that all attempts over the last four decades to solve the problem either by means of war or by means of force have brought about caused a deterioration rather than improvement.
Naturally, that is not to say that there is nothing to be done, quite the contrary. Once one has come to the realization that there are no miracle cures or quick fixes, one ceases to be paralyzed in other areas of life. One’s life is no longer on hold, waiting for a solution, one can begin to live. Paradoxically, the realization that there is no solution becomes something of a solution in and of itself.
It is only the true optimist who can find life, hope and happiness in a world with many unsolved questions, problems that he knows are here to stay.
So we redecorate our houses without asking whether it will one day be given to another, we plant a tree and look forward to its fruits. We bring children into the world knowing that they too will one day don uniform. We drink wine from a local Judean vineyard read a good book or maybe write one, carry on studying our beloved Torah knowing we’ll never finish it. We teach our students to respect everyone friend and enemy alike, but secretly hope that they’ll respect at least us. We look at the old yellowing pictures in our albums of ancestors long gone, who could only have dreamt of waking up to the view of Jerusalem. We thank G-d for being the luckiest generation of Jews since the time of King David and three times a day we pray for peace too.
With broken hearts we pray to our Maker that he might send us a year of peace, acknowledging that nobody else can.