A fictional letter from the prime minister of Israel to the president of Iran.
Dear Mr. Rohani,
I have just returned from a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during which we discussed at length the Israeli position on the recent P5+1 talks in Geneva, and I felt that instead of all this indirect chit chat, it was time you and I spoke face-to-face.
I am sorry that circumstances have prevented us from meeting thus far, or speaking on the phone, so I have not yet had the opportunity to personally congratulate you on your recent election.
Israelis and Jews throughout the world were encouraged and relieved by your recent speech at the United Nations, especially your advocacy for "dialogue over conflict, and moderation over extremism." We take this as a good sign and very much hope your words are sincere.
You will, however, understand that many of us remain skeptical. With a nuclear threat hanging over us and millions of lives at stake, we cannot afford to take risks. We must remain vigilant, which is why I have campaigned forcefully to prevent your country from developing nuclear weapons. It would certainly help if you would back up your peaceful statements with concrete actions by ending your nuclear program.
I admit that I have made some diplomatic blunders; casting aspersions on your integrity has not helped promote peaceful relations between your country and the United States of America. So, as a gesture of reconciliation, I would like to invite you to come as my guest to Jerusalem. If you are serious about making peace, this will be your chance to prove yourself. We have nothing to lose by talking and the gains could be enormous.
I've spoken to President Shimon Peres and he's all in favor, even the fanatical right-wing members of my party are curious to meet you.
So why not come to Jerusalem? We will ensure the utmost security and house you and your entourage in the finest Jerusalem hotels. As you may have heard that we have an endless supply of the best and most expensive pistachio ice cream at the prime minister's residence, it's worth coming just for that!
You will no doubt want to worship at Islam's third holiest site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we will take you to our national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, where you will have as much time as you need to view the permanent exhibition, peruse the archives, meet survivors and confirm the facts for yourself.
Then, we can start talking peace.
In your speech, you declared that, "Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions." Judaism shares this passion for peace.
Our greatest philosopher, Moses Maimonides explained that instigators of wars show a profound ignorance or misunderstanding of the Divine will. God created us all in his image, we are all children of the King; to kill one another is simply fratricide. (Rambam Guide for the Perplexed III: 11)
Even the heroic King David, precursor of the Messiah who composed beautiful psalms of prayer to God was nevertheless forbidden by God from building the Temple in Jerusalem: You have shed much blood and fought great battles; you shall not build a House for My name for you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight". (I Chronicles XXII:7)
Where war is unavoidable, our Bible gives strict instructions for conduct on the battlefield. It understands how corrupting war can be. As one of our greatest Bible commentators points out, "The fairest of men by nature comes to be possessed of cruelty and fury when the army advances against the enemy" (Ramban on Deut 23: 10). So while I believe in the justice of our cause and I am confident in our army's overall moral record, we can only ensure the total ethical integrity for which we strive when we reach peace with all our neighbors. A peace treaty with you that ended arms supplies to all the terrorist groups around us would make a huge difference enabling me to sell the necessary concessions for peace with the Palestinians to the Israeli public.
I dream of a day when we will "beat our swords into ploughshares" - pouring our huge military budget into health, homes and education. No doubt with crippling sanctions on your country, a peaceful resolution would be attractive to you, too.
Our sages taught that peace is equal the greatest blessing and a cursory glance at our prayer book will show that every one of our major prayers ends with a supplication for peace (Midrash Vayikra Rabba Chapter 9).
And if our most fervent nationalists talk about our country being the beginning of a messianic era, let us be clear that for Jews this means an age of peace and tranquility, a time when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:2) .
I very much hope we can truly start this process.
PS: If we can't make peace, could we at least be friends on Facebook?
Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester is the British United Synagogue's rabbi in Israel and directs the education program for the Jerusalem branch of the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program in Judaism and Human Rights. He was recently appointed Senior Rabbinic Educator in Israel for T'ruah – The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
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