The Purpose of Israel Is Peace

The purpose of Rabbi Menachem Froman was to find a place where the Jews and the non-Jews who live here were safe at last, their lives – all of their lives – accorded respect and where a distinction is made between loving the land and claiming exclusive possession of it.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Does every nation need purpose? Probably not. Many countries, perhaps most, do quite nicely just getting by. Making a living. Abiding by common international denominators. As far as many nations are concerned, a purpose is beside the point.

Then there's this one.

Israel never had a choice. The people who live here, live here for a reason. Some were driven here, pushed out of homes abroad by Holocaust, by pogroms, by governmental or neighborhood hatred of Jews and/or Israel. Some came because they believe that this country can be better than it is, and their life here is about making it so.

But even for the people born here, Jews and non-Jews alike, born into this home that they know and feel as surely and deeply as they do the limbs of their bodies, there is a particular role that this place plays in the world.

For me, it comes down to this: The purpose of Israel is peace.

The people who live here, live here for a reason. They have a vision of this country that is the fire in their gut. It is the anchor that keeps their nerves from tearing out in a thousand directions at once. There is tragedy in the circumstance that their visions war with one another, sabotage one another, render Israel a society that is corrosive within, even as it is threatened without.

Little wonder then, that this is a place which was founded by undergrounds of tiruf, of madness, and which suffers from them still. Each with a purpose. Each with a plan for Israel's life. Each with the right to decide the purpose of this place.

There is also a largely silent underground, perhaps the most guarded and the most fanatic of all. Perhaps the largest as well. It is an underground of immense, almost unimaginable ambivalence. An underground which says this:

The purpose of Israel is peace.

This week, one of the very rarest of g'dolei hador, the great figures of our era, was given release from the sufferings of this earth and the cancer which claimed him. He was an underground of one, a paratrooper/settler who became a sage and a one-man peace process, fearless in ways and directions warriors can only begin to fathom.

The purpose of Menachem Froman was peace.

The purpose of Rabbi Froman was to find a place where the Jews and the non-Jews who live here were safe at last, their lives – all of their lives – accorded respect. Where a distinction is made between loving the land and claiming exclusive possession of it.

A place where people begin to think with their human souls, their innate holiness, the mentsch within. A place where a settler rabbi like Menachem Froman could, and would, talk with anyone, Hamas included, to seek a solution, to seek a profound and lasting peace. A place where a settlement rabbi like Menachem Froman could speak of occupation as the root of all evil, a place where ties between peoples take the place of fences and walls, where a settlement rabbi could publicly announce his willingness to live in an independent Palestine, alongside an independent Israel, under Palestinian sovereignty.

A man who, amid the rest of us - who still occupy ourselves with finding new ways to curse the darkness - held a lantern to shine light on entirely new ways of thinking.

A man whose memory is a blessing. A man whose greatness may be known only in generations to come, when we, stuck in our accustomed "solutions," are but memories as well.

The purpose of Israel is peace.

There are those who have come to believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can never come about. Some of them believe that, accordingly, Israel should be put out of existence. Others of them believe that a Palestine should never be allowed to come about.

Is there reason left to believe that this place, which may at times seem to be run by small people growing smaller by the wasted year, can understand the wisdom of Hillel and the commandment of the Psalms: Love peace and pursue it, seek peace and hunt it down, run after it, hound it, haunt it, give peace no rest. Bring it to the earth.

No one knew better than Rabbi Froman that the reason to believe in this is because this place remains the foundry of the unlikely second chance, the bellows and forge of the unforeseeably changed mind.

This is Israel. Contentious, inconsistent, infuriating, indignant, insistent, flighty, headstrong, over-righteous. This is Israel. The heart gets to decide what it wants. The heart gets to decide what its purpose is. Those who love this place get to decide what its purpose is.

The purpose of Israel is peace.

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