Hope is best outlook for peace in Middle East

May 21, 2011 

With the advent of the successful and courageous work of our country's Navy SEALs, Osama bin Laden now dwells in the archives of history.

The political spinners are taking full advantage of this achievement. They are doing their best to demonstrate to the world the flaws of the man and the myths that crowned him a holy warrior and aroused so much inspiration in the radical Muslim world. They're also addressing the inaccurate perception that the United States military and intelligence agencies would never find him. So it usually goes with exposing terrorists like bin Laden.

The fact that so many Arab regimes and Arabs on the street showed little interest in bin Laden's assassination proves his waning influence. The Arab world is reeling from multiple internal, political, cultural, economic and ethnic issues which do not relate so much to religion as they do to a broad culture conflict within that world between the masses, the government and everyone else who wants to exploit those boiling emotions.

Then comes Israel. Just imagine what it feels like to Israelis and their government watching these uprisings throughout the Arab world. Who can predict what Israel should do or how it should react to the eruptions of Arab protests against their own leaders? At the same time that the political ground beneath the Middle East shakes, Israel recently celebrated its 63rd birthday. This blessed event gave Jewish communities from Beaufort County and the rest of the country the opportunity to proudly demonstrate their support for Israel's existence.

Each year Israelis begin their commemoration with a Day of Remembrance for the nation's more than 22,000 war dead since its inception in 1948. Then the country changes completely and joyously dances and sings a melody that its resurrected past has breathed new life into the souls of Jewish people throughout the world.

Israel has opened new doorways in so many fields that impact our lives in America. Palestine under Turkish rule has always contained a Jewish presence. The intense immigrations to Israel began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All that has been achieved in the modern state of Israel has occurred within the past 100 years. At the time of Israel becoming a state in 1948, the total population was about 650,000. Today it is approaching 8 million.

Yet, Israel's adversaries continue to pound it with poisonous propaganda with the overt intention of discrediting it in the council of nations. Accusations against Israel depicting it as an apartheid state insult not only the Jewish people all over the world, but also America, which has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel since the U.N. voted for its statehood.

The point here is not to debate foreign policy. It is a matter of moral and spiritual policy. The challenge for Israel is not just winning wars, but winning peace. The core values of Israel and its people, who come from all over the world and represent all races, remain democratic and rooted in the Bible.

Abba Eban, the revered Israeli diplomat, said in a 1965 interview that the United States should do its best to show Israel is not "a transient and provisional eruption into history, and to make it clear that, in the view of your government and other peace-loving governments, Israel, a member of the United Nations, is entitled to her integrity and her independence." Eban went on to say, "the United States amongst other nations can do a lot to turn the minds of Middle Eastern states away from the arms race, and away from counsels of conflict, towards the great vision of reconstructing a civilization worthy of its ancient and medieval past."

When I read those words, I see how far Israel has come and how far it needs to go to achieve this vision. I would urge Americans not to give up on the chance for peace no matter how far it appears in the Middle East. Vigilance against terror requires our constant attention. But it does not define the soul of Israel, nor will terrorists poison the well of goodwill that sustains every Israeli who dreams of peace.

No matter the day-to-day tumult in the Middle East, I confess to be neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I simply hope. I look to the biblical prophets for inspiration, for no matter how dark it can be in terms of prospects for peace, the Bible's prophets knew how to comfort and not lose the hope for a better future.

"In that day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria: the Assyrian will come to Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel shall be a third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, which the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance" (Isaiah 19:23-25).

Let Isaiah's along with Abba Eban's vision stand firm together as the goal that all religions should aspire to work for today.

Rabbi Brad L. Bloom is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island. He can be reached at 843-689-2178. Read his blog at www.fusion613.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @rabbibloom.

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