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Keeping Hope Alive

Growing up in an interfaith family, we went to church on Christmas every year to support our family members in their faith. These holidays may not have been sacred to us, but lifting up our loved ones who celebrated was a sacred endeavor.

But in fifth grade, I learned about the crusades. I learned of the unfathomable atrocities that the crusaders perpetrated against Jews, and all people who refused to profess belief in Christ, slaughtering tens of thousands. That Christmas as I sat in church, I struggled to wrap my 10-year-old mind around this reality. How could I sit in the pews of the people who killed my people generations earlier? In the middle of the service, I lost control and started bawling to the point that my dad had to take me outside.

Through my soap opera tears, I tried to express the dissonance and despair that was bubbling up so intensely inside me. After calming me down, my dad explained to me that it was a blessing from God that we were able to sit side by side with the children of our ancestors’ enemies.

As 134 of our sisters and brothers and siblings are still being held hostage and the death toll of innocents in Gaza continues to rise to unspeakable numbers, I am brought back to my father’s words in the entrance of that church. I wonder if there will ever be a day in which our children will sit alongside the children of our enemies today. As I scroll through the news each day, often bearing witness to a sea of misinformation and lack of nuance, it has been challenging to hold out hope that this day will come. In these moments when hope for coexistance feels fragile, I recall the poem Ein Yahav by Yehuda Amichai:

נסיעה לילית לעין יהב בערבה
נסיעה בגשם. כן בגשם.
שם פגשתי אנשים שמגדלים תמרים.
שם ראיתי עצי אשל ועצי אשליה.
שם ראיתי תקוה דוקרנית כמו תיל דוקרני
ואמרתי בלבי: אמת, התקוה צריכה להיות
כמו תיל כדי להגן עלינו מן היאוש.
התקוה צריכה להיות שדה מוקשים

A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert,
a drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There I met people who grow date palms,
there I saw tamarisk trees and risk trees,
there I saw hope barbed as barbed wire.
And I said to myself: That’s true, hope needs to be
like barbed wire to keep out despair,
hope must be a mine field.

As I revisit Amichai’s words, I am reminded of how crucial it is that we safeguard our hope, that we keep our hope alive. May the light of this Shabbat nurture the glimmer of hope that one day, our current reality will belong to history, and our children will sit side by side with the children of our enemies in peace.

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ
Our hope is not yet lost.


Shabbat Shalom,