Skip to content


May 28, 2016

The lovely young couple’s engagement party was just another Israeli event of this sort. Pretty upscale, but the crowd was generic. Lovely house, wide terrace over the swimming pool, and the lawn and fruit trees thriving on the third level down below the terrace. Crowded, boisterous, everyone rubbing up against each other as we do in Israel. Not much personal space, as though we all belong to each other. The event brings old friends together, young men embrace in muscular bear hugs, almost aggressively. Israel, at a party.

A typical engagement party, except for the one thing that got to me, and that was the location. This party took place in the heart of one of the veteran settlements in the territories.

Surrounded by Palestinian villages, our bus made its way from Jerusalem. We friends of the couple and their parents had gathered at Mt. Herzl, the cemetery of the founders and builders of the realization of the Zionist dream. The bus was armored for stones, but not for bullets. The driver told Frumit of a colleague who drove a bullet-proof bus through this area, recently, whose armored glass prevented the bullet that hit the windshield from piercing his chest. War. Still war.

The home was beautiful. Nice art on the walls, a circular structure framing the living room, and the people, my Israeli countrymen and women, were lovely. For the hosts, home. In the garden on the side of the house, we held a ceremony. The couple planted a fig tree, genuine joy all around. The bride is the daughter of a progressive activist family, the groom the son of our hosts. Successful settlers, and nice folks as well. My friend the father of the bride proclaims the wonder of the contradictions this event asks us to embrace. All these towering men around, with their indomitable power. Many with pistols jammed into belts at the small of their back. Some of the guests are beautifully religious, the glowing covered-up women, their faces radiating joy and their wholesome children bubbling up from all over. Boutique beer, from the territories, strong brew and I’m a bit dizzy. Delicious hors d’oeuvres. And this palatial house, deep in the heart of Palestine, the picturesque villages all around, and these settlers raising their cups to toast the jubilant young couple and their fresh love.

I find it difficult to celebrate, I am squeezed here, cramped. Yet I do not hate these people, they are not the enemy. It is not the settlers I oppose, it is the settlements. The bold insistent policy of holding and building on this land, the denial of opportunity for the Palestinian neighbors. The tranquil pool, filled to the brim for the hosts’ morning swim, with quantities of water for swimming that Palestinians can only dream of drinking.

Here in West Jerusalem, also conquered territory, but a place where we will forever live, I attended a session at the Knesset this week. We were a delegation of staffers and freelancers from the Herzl Center, where I moonlight occasionally as a guide, taking groups around our national cemetery. The most interesting part of the Knesset session, which was devoted to the memory of Theodore Herzl, was the half hour before the session began. The Knesset members trickled in and the horse trading began. So much back slapping, flirting, everyone making their moves, assistants hovering. Ahmed Tibi, Naftali Bennett, all of them smiling and eager, advancing agendas with that Israeli bravado. It is not a pretty sight. Inspiration will not be forthcoming from this crowd of go-getters. Then the speeches, Bibi’s self-righteousness, Herzog’s lame plaint.

I ask myself, “These are your leaders?” As I gaze down into the morass of wheelers and dealers, I am sure that God is offering us a broad hint….These people cannot lead you anywhere….You observers, you in the gallery….You must become the leaders.

In Neve Shalom, last week, we gathered a small group of Sulha supporters, Palestinians and Israelis. We studied the fascinating “Two States, One Homeland” initiative, searching together for possible paths forward, and we ate a good meal, connecting hearts. Later we sat in small groups and shared our varied takes on a powerful speech delivered by David Shulman, winner of the Israel Prize, at the alternate Independence Day ceremony. Shulman says, “…I am honored to light this torch in tribute to those who know in their hearts that peace will indeed come, that the fences will fall, and that the two peoples living in this land will know the taste of brotherhood and friendship and generosity of heart, which are the natural and historical birthright of every human being.” Inspired by Shulman’s words, each of us chooses a phrase that catches us, and we share with each other our hopes, our dreams of the future to which we aspire. We are not busy with the settlers or with bitterness or loss. We are engaging with each other, strengthening our resolve to carry on with generosity of heart, bringing forth our own potential leadership as we confront the grim aimlessness of our proclaimed “leaders.”

In the current national sea of grimness, the cynicism of Bib’s appointment of a dangerous, unpredictable Lieberman to the second most powerful position in the government where he will control an army that is still mourning the loss of the deposed Moshe Ya’alon. While many Israelis who have the means are planning their escape abroad, we Sulha people join hands, circling to sing our anthem….” Rich earth, open sky, Warmth of fire, sound of water, I can feel it in my body, I can feel it in my soul….” It is at this engagement party that I am free to celebrate, engaging deeply with those who bring soulful determination to our days and spread a message of reconciliation far and wide. These are the leaders to whom I can commit. We celebrate the future, we are unstoppable as we sing our way into tomorrow.

Yoav Peck












From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Dear Yoav,
    Thank you. Your words continue to inspire and challenge me as they did in the bus to NY city at the end of kutz camp in 1986.Thank you for your hopeful humane message
    Nachshon Carmi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: