This Passover, observant Jews said the Blessing of the Sun, a tradition held every 28 years steeped in mysticism, under which the sun is believed to return to its location on the fourth day of Creation. But the sun isn't alone in returning to where it was 28 years ago: A comparison between today's headlines and those in the archives show that Israel is also where it was 28 years ago.
Back in 1981, the year Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, we were threatened by an existential threat, Likud won the elections, Israeli jets flew over Lebanon on reconnaissance missions, three new settlements were built on the Golan Heights and many more in the West Bank, and veteran MK Michael Eitan had just become a lawmaker. Indeed, the sun seems to have been at the exact same angle as it was this week when the government was sworn in.
It's hard to draw a comparison between the murder of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman this week, but concerns over the future of peace with Israel's southern neighbor keep repeating themselves in cycles. As for Israel's official policy toward the Palestinians, it's hard to say whether the current government's refusal to recognize a two-state solution is a return to 1981 or an even earlier era. It's much easier to say a new sun cycle begins this week, and all signs indicate it will be just like the one that preceded it.
Welcome, then, to 28 more years of wandering through the desert. Unless a dramatic breakthrough occurs, we are destined to repeat the same mistakes, delays and errors with the Palestinians and our other neighbors.
It may turn out that in so many sun cycles from now the proponents of maintaining the status quo and messianic annexation policy were right; that the outposts and settlements created a celestial Jewish nation of which Israel was just a precursor. But as far as those who cannot claim divine inspiration can tell, it doesn't look like history will turn out that way.
Even now, the government seems not to have been affected by the last decade's political evolution and is waving the flag of the status quo. It, too, hopes some creative solution will push forward the cause of peace.
Is there even such a hint of a change in policy? Everywhere we look we are bound by the chains we have put ourselves in: our military concepts that still place all our hopes on force, even when it's counterproductive; the endless didactic treatment of the Palestinians and our attempts to educate them; the obsession with settlements and the primal fear of settlers; the tricking of the Americans and our quibbling with half the world; our own self-fulfilling, existential fears that make us function in a constant atmosphere of crisis.
We oscillate between diplomatic conservatism and military overreactions. Instead of asking what can we do to improve our situation, the government only concerns itself with "from which quarter will the next blow come?"
Without noticing, we have gradually become enslaved to this policy - willing slaves of our own conventions and fears.
Of course, it's naive to put all the blame on Israel or its conservative-expansionist political wing. Moreover, attempts like the Oslo Accords or the Gaza disengagement to end the impasse failed in agony. Still, you can't curl into a fetal position of inertia and stagnation that leads to even more failure and pain.
When we read about the Israelites wandering through the desert for 40 years, it seems like a cruel and unbearable punishment. But our own generation and two or three others have also been wandering through the desert. Our country does not know peace, safe borders or quiet. Unlike the Israelites, we are not certain whether the Promised Land still lies ahead, or perhaps we have already past it. Maybe if we realized how similar we are to the generation of Israelites sentenced to die in the desert before they reached the Promised Land, we would change our policies.
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