To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,
“Say something encouraging, you are always such an optimist.” This request repeated over and over again, and one more time, during the last winter. We all need hope. When I heard this request from the outside, but also from within me, I started thinking and trying to understand what was the meaning of Hope for me.
Our Anthem is called “Hope”, we have a wide and very successful layer of entrepreneurs, and initiative is the most hopeful thing out there. Supposedly, we are a hopeful nation, but at the same time, we are complaining, we are suspicious, we take things out of proportion easily and we carry endless national traumas.
So what really ?
I think the explanation for this question is somewhere in the gap between description and imperative. When we say “it’s all for the best”, if the meaning is that at the core of every event there is something good and the world is moving towards good things, then it’s a very optimistic approach, but also one with a dimension of repression, denial and sometimes damage of obscuring bad and problematic developments.
But if the intention is imperative, like for example “everything needs to be recycled”, then the meaning is that in every event and every occurrence it is incumbent upon us to look for ways in which it can be used in order to benefit someone. For example, the words “Our hope has not yet been lost”. It is not a description, but an imperative, a commandment.
We cannot lose our hope, not because it’s unclear whether there will be a “happy end”, but because our obligation is not to lose our direction, not to take our eyes off the goal, but to search for ways to walk in its direction even when the road is very shrouded in fog.
The State of Israel is in the middle of a crisis, most likely the largest we ever have. We are split, distrustful and it is not clear to us that we can continue together.
Am I an optimist? I don’t know. I am struggling to say that I know how to fuse the rifts and step out of this crisis, but I am convinced we will walk on the path towards it, together. I do know that we have a “Mitzvah” and a responsibility, and we have many different paths to try. We have to try.
“It is not up to us to finish the job, but we are not free to be deprived of it” (according to Mishnah Avot 2, 16).
Our hope has not yet been lost.
Tehila Friedman is a former Knesset member, now leads the “Leeba” initiative for developing Jewish philosophy and leadership for the Jewish democratic camp.