Over the past month, both our peoples have been marking Elul and Ramadan with increased acts of kindness, prayer and introspection. The purpose of these months in both traditions is to assess the things we need to give up or change in order to be better servants of God and each other.
Netanyahu and Abbas embodied the spirit of Elul/Ramadan last week when they met for the first time in almost two years. Netanyahu said to Abbas, "The Jewish people are not strangers in our homeland, the land of our forefathers. But we recognize that another people share this land with us. And I came here to find an historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, security and dignity. President Abbas, you are my partner in peace. It is up to us to live next to one another and with one another.”
Abbas said to Netanyahu, “We consider security as essential and vital both for us and for you and we will not accept that anyone commits any act that would harm your security or ours."
Netanyahu and Abbas said these words in spite of the considerable advocacy efforts of both sides in delegitimizing the other and convincing their populations that there is no partner for dialogue.
If a year from now, Abbas and Netanyahu were to announce that they have come to an agreement that will share Jerusalem along the Clinton parameters and divide the land more or less as prescribed by UN Resolution 242, I suspect that the inboxes of supporters of Israel and Palestine will be deluged with facts, stats and videos about why such a deal is going to lead to the destruction of the other or is against God’s will.
With this in mind, I appeal to Jews and Muslims to use the festival we both celebrate this week, Rosh Hashana and Eid el Fitr to pray for the coming year to become a time where our encounters with each other highlight the best in the others tradition, rather than the worst.
I sincerely hope that the Rabbis and Imams around the world will use their drashot and khutbah to encourage all their followers to end any past animosities they may have.
After the prayers, as both peoples gather with their families to eat festive meals filled with apple and honey, sweet dates and copious amounts of food, we will greet our fellows with the words ‘Shana Tova’ and ‘Salaam Aleikum.’ Should these manifest as more than meaningless slogans and become statements of our intention, then our coming year will truly be peaceful, sweet and good.
With this in mind, I encourage you all to watch this Rosh Hashana greeting from the Palestinian leadership to the people of Israel. I will know that people have heeded the message of using words and emails to promote optimism and peace rather than intolerance and fear when this video has 1,000,000 hits rather than the 663 it currently does.
To my Jewish friends I wish a Shana Tova Umetukah (May you have a Happy and Sweet New Year)
To my Muslims friends I wish Kul 'am wa enta bi-khair! (May every year find you in good health!)
To both I wish you a future where your peaceful actions speak louder than your peaceful words.