01 August 2010

Those Empty Benches!

Sometimes it's hard to know what we're supposed to do.

The anti-Semites, for the past hundred years or so, assume we Voices of Zion march in lock-step with each other--from the Cemetery of Prague to the Hallowed Halls of Power on Capitol Hill--but alas, it just isn't true.  And so we labor in the trenches, teaching and writing and speaking and leading trips to Israel--all in an effort to put our mark on the situation as we move through time, attempting to make our mark.  Just trying to figure it out, we Jews.  One situation at a time.

I was looking at a picture that I took on the beach in Jaffa a couple weeks ago.  Here it is.

I love this picture.

It's so mundane.  And empty.  And full of expectation.  And therefore perfect.

Bear with me.  During a time in Jewish history when appropriate but nonetheless enormous pressure is being brought to bear on Israel to make concessions for peace; when enormous pressure is being brought to bear on the Palestinian leadership to make concessions for peace; and when the worst forces are allied to derail the painful process of reconciliation, I thought, as I saw these four empty benches on a beach in Jaffa a couple weeks ago, of the famous picture of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, creating an alliance to defeat Nazism.  Here is the picture:
And as I looked at the picture I thought of the fourth bench, reserved for you and me.   Don't look for direct corollaries, please.  I don't mean to make them.  

I am responding to Image; and on this sweltering Tel Aviv-Jaffa day, I was thinking of three or four who sat on a bench, in an effort to bring the world to a better place.
Of three or four in a room
There is always one who stands beside the window.
He must see evil among thorns
And the fires on the hill.
And how people who went out of their houses whole

Are given back in the evening like small change.

Of three or four in a room
There is always one who stands beside the window,
His dark hair above his thoughts.
Behind him, words.
And in front of him, voices without a knapsack,
hearts without provisions, prophecies without water,
large stones that have been returned
and stay sealed, like letters that have no
address and no one to receive them.  --Yehuda Amichai 
We are a generation of kvetchers.  A generation of (rather fortunate) victims.  So many people did so much wrong to so many of us. 

But what about us?  What have we really done to take control of our own destiny?  What have we really done to bring the peace we seek?

I just wanted some peace on that hot Jaffa day.  But those empty benches.   Those empty benches!

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