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Why I am still hopeful
Why I am still hopeful
By Ori Nir
Americans for Peace Now


On a recent visit to the doctor`s office, the nurse asked me if I have
recently felt depressed or hopeless. I paused and pondered the impact that
developments in both

Jerusalem and Washington have had on me. The nurse noticed my hesitation and
said, `Oh, it`s routine, sir. We are required to ask every patient about
their emotional

state.` I had to think. How do you honestly reply without being sent to the
psychiatric ward Well, I said, `Hopeless? No, definitely not hopeless.`

It`s not hopeless. Not at all. Had I thought it was hopeless, I would have
found something else to do.

Particularly today, perhaps more than any other day on the calendar, its
important to keep this sense of proportions.

As the sun sets on Israel this evening, Israelis will make the annual abrupt
shift from solemnity to celebration, from the collective bereavement of
Memorial Day to the jingoistic euphoria of Independence Day. And the next
day, they will wake up again to the doldrums of the conflict, the
occupation, settlements, international pressure and no prospect for peace.

Yes, this is a dark moment in the ongoing effort to bring peace to Israelis
and Palestinians. Yes, at the moment we cannot see a political horizon.
We`re stuck. But, believe me, I have seen darker moments. Up close.

Having covered the first and second intifadas, having attended numerous
funerals of Israeli terrorism victims and Palestinian victims of Israeli
violence, having covered massacres and having seen the horror and agony of
civilians on both sides as they weep over their lost loved ones, having
spent hundreds of hours in chaotic hospitals and clinics, and having closely
followed the disastrous results of the actions and inaction of intransigent,
inept leaders on both sides, I am familiar with the darkest moments of this

But I have also seen encouraging moments up-close. I was there as
Israeli soldiers withdrew from Palestinian towns in the mid-1990s, being
pelted with flowers

rather than stones. I was there to see Palestinian security officers and
Israeli soldiers jointly patrolling in the West Bank, and stopping to break
bread together and chat. I have covered several rounds of Israeli-
Palestinian negotiations. I have spoken with thousands of Israelis and
Palestinians about peace - and war. I know that peace is possible, and that
people on both sides want it. I am convinced that if the leaders on both
sides lead, both peoples will follow. The constituency for peace exists. The
big challenge, particularly on the Israeli side, is activating this passive,
dormant constituency, energizing it and mobilizing it to demand action from
its government.

That is the mission statement of Shalom Achshav, Israel`s Peace Now
movement. Americans for Peace Now`s mission is to emulate that Israeli
effort, in slightly different ways, to rally support, in the United States,
for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Like our friends in Israel, we are committed. We are not giving up.

We are not giving up because we are absolutely convinced that peace is
possible. We are not giving up because our colleagues in Israel are very
much still at it. In

fact, they are experiencing a renaissance of sorts, including thousands of
new members and an unprecedented buzz on social media networks, as well as

exposure in the traditional media. I spent about a month in Israel in the
Fall and saw up-close what Peace Now is doing, how hard they are working. I
met with young

activists who until recently experienced the occupation as soldiers in the
West Bank, and now, as students, are volunteering the little time they have
between exams

and papers to anti-occupation advocacy. As I see it, the most appropriate
time to help them is now, when hope seems distant, and when the imperative
is to keep hope

alive in the eyes of both Israelis and Palestinians.

I believe that when it gets dark, what you need is more light. That`s what
we are trying to be: more light, a guiding light, which illuminates the path
toward a

powerful peace initiative once circumstances allow.

My heart is in this cause, despite the many heartbreaks on the road to
peace. A famous quote by the Sufi guru Hazrat Inayat Khan says: `God breaks
the heart again and

again and again until it stays open.` Well, I dont know about God, but Im
familiar with the concept of a heart being repeatedly broken by disastrous
politics. Many

of my fellow Israelis and Americans have closed their hearts and minds to
the prospect of a two-state solution. Mine is open, maybe more than ever.
Because I know how

crucially important such a solution is for the Israelis and Palestinians who
I so deeply care about, who are scarred by constant strife, and who yearn
for peace and

deserve it so much.

With hope and conviction in my heart that peace will come, I will join my
Israeli friends celebrations tonight. Yom Atzmaut Sameach! Happy
Independence Day!

Ori Nir
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