New Hope in Middle East Talks

For the Jewish people, this coming week is one of the biggest in our calendar, with Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, just a few days away. For the world, this coming week could be one of the biggest of our lifetime, as Middle East leaders gathered in Washington, at the behest of President Obama, to once again, with even greater urgency, attempt to begin the final walk toward a comprehensive peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. Our celebration of the New Year-- with its promise of new beginnings, new hopes, aspirations unfilled being sought after again with a new heart-- will be filled with anticipation of what these talks might yield. And, as happens every so often, the Muslim calendar is approaching the end of Ramadan, with the celebration of Eid, falling on the very same days as Rosh Hashanah. It seems like the cosmic energy of our religious calendars is calling us to be closer, calling us to listen to one another, respect one another, recognize how closely bound we actually are to one another. I imagine that my Muslim friends will also be thinking about these talks as they celebrate their holy days.

As I read the White House transcript of the opening statements from President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, President Mubarak of Egypt, and King Abdullah of Jordan, I heard both familiar and unfamiliar language. The familiar was the call to peace, the desire for peace, the need for peace. These words have been uttered for generations, but to little avail. However, the unfamiliar language was King Abdullah saying, "Radicals and terrorists have exploited frustrations to feed hatred and ignite wars.  The whole world has been dragged into regional conflicts that cannot be addressed effectively until Arabs and Israelis find peace." As a Jewish leader, I welcome the King's acknowledgment and public admonition of terrorists, referring to Hamas and Hezbollah, who have immediately and brutally already begun to try and derail these talks with murder, and hope that President Abbas can speak out publicly against those among his people who seek to destroy the hope for peace. Unfamiliar language was Prime Minister Netanyahu saying, "President Abbas, you are my partner in peace.  And it is up to us, with the help of our friends, to conclude the agonizing conflict between our peoples and to afford them a new beginning. The Jewish people are not strangers in our ancestral homeland, the land of our forefathers.  But we recognize that another people shares this land with us." For too long we have heard, "no partner for peace," but today the Prime Minister ended that tired rant. With statements such as these, honest and bold, I have hope that this could be a new start to ending such an old conflict.

In the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah, we say "renew our days as of old," reminding ourselves that things have not always been the way we see them today, that a new tomorrow, with vision for the future and understanding of the past, can emerge for us. There is no time to wait, no time to stall, no time to equivocate. The road ahead will be hard, for sure, but if all of these leaders stay focused on the endgame, with President Obama leading the way, we may just see the tomorrow we have dreamed of for so many years actually come to pass today. In the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, "I didn't come here today to play a blame game where even the winners lose.  Everybody loses if there's no peace.  I came here to achieve a peace that will bring a lasting benefit to us all." This Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, lets pray we come out as winners.