A Message from University President Robert Wexler, Ph.D. - For the Record Fall 11

Normally, I don’t like to use university publications to comment on issues relating to Israeli politics or the presentation of Israel in the media.  But this time I am going to make an exception.  I just finished reading a current edition of Time, whose cover features a Star of David inside of which are the words, "Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”

The actual article includes a number of brief quotes from various Israelis who appear to be more concerned about living the good life than securing a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  Now, as a very frequent visitor to Israel, I admit fully that such folks are definitely to be found—or at least it may appear that way on the surface.  But what the writer fails to grasp is that many Israelis take refuge in the pleasures of today precisely because otherwise they are condemned to live constantly on the precipice—the precipice of another rocket attack, the precipice of a nuclear Iran, or the precipice of international delegitimization.

Israelis want peace.  The most recent polls show that 80% of Jewish Israelis are in favor of peace talks, and 64% feel it is "urgent” for Israel to resume talks with the Palestinians.  Does that sound like people who don’t care about peace?

But Jewish Israelis are skeptical.  Not surprising.  They are, after all Jews, and Jewish history is replete with examples of dashed hopes and frustrated dreams.  Furthermore, recent Israeli history gives little cause for optimism.

Yet here is the Jewish contradiction.  On a certain level, we don’t really believe that the Messiah is going to come, but that doesn’t mean we give up praying for his arrival.  During the ill-fated Oslo process, Israelis quickly went from cynicism to excitement, when the negotiations seemed to be working.  Oslo ended badly, but if this latest effort shows any promise, the sometimes dormant, but ever-present Jewish belief in a better future will reassert itself—albeit cautiously.  Perhaps this attitude can best be summed up by quoting one of the giants of modern Zionism, Zev Jabotinsky, who said, "I hope always, I long for much and expect little.”

Not a bad thought as we are in the midst of the High Holidays.  Jews do share a fundamental faith that both we, and the world at large, can be improved.  So, as we embark on 5771, let’s continue to "hope always” and "long for much,” but let’s dare to expect more than just a little.