The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Praying for Peace

with one comment

1.  The BBC report of today’s rally in Trafalgar Square reports that there was “a festival atmosphere as people cheered and applauded a succession of speakers who called for peace for Israel and the Palestinians”.

2.  Oddly enough, this is one piece of inaccurate reporting that really upsets me.

3.  I was in Trafalgar Square, and saw nothing like a festival.  There was certainly applause, as speakers called for peace for innocent people everywhere.  But the applause, like the speeches themselves, was noticeably muted and restrained.

4.  This was no victory rally – nor was there any hint of exhorting Israel towards a military victory.  It was clear from the banners, the speeches and from the behaviour and sombre reactions of the crowd that nobody saw this as a war to be measured in military terms, but only as a necessary and unlovely precursor to peace for everyone.  There was no suggestion that the side with the fewest casualties or fatalities will have “won” – only sadness that so many innocent people should have to suffer before a secure peace can be declared.  When we arrived there was a song of peace being played over the tannoy: as we dispersed, the crowd sang a song that puts a prayer for peace to music.

5.  In yesterday’s parashah Yaakov asks not to be buried in Ancient Egypt, but to be “lifted up” and carried back to be with his fathers in the Cave of the Patriarchs.  And he insists, apparently unnecessarily, on Yosef making a formal oath to that effect.

6.  The oath was not for Yaakov’s sake, but for his descendants.  We are bound by that oath forever to perpetuate the memory of our father Yaakov by lifting it up, by our behaviour, above the cruelty and selfishness that he associated with the culture that prevailed in the land where he died and where we were later enslaved.

7.  The Jewish people are bound by that oath to regulate our standards of behaviour in all matters – personal, institutional and national – not against the behaviour of others, past or present, but against the high standards that our fathers Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov demanded of themselves and of us.

8.  I know nothing about Israeli politics or military strategy.  But I know that Israel proclaims itself a Jewish state, and that I can be ashamed when it fails to live up to Jewish standards, and proud when it tries to do so.  When Israel makes a humanitarian-aid corridor because it argues that it is the proper thing to do, I can be proud.  And when Jews stand in Trafalgar Square when Israel is at war – a war which in purely military terms it could be said both to be winning and always to have been bound to win – and do not rejoice at or pray for victory, but pray only for peace for all, we can all be proud and we can all be hopeful.


Written by Daniel Greenberg

January 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

One Response

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  1. I sent an e-mail to the comments page of the BBC pointing out that the mood was not festive.

    Avi Greenberg

    January 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm

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