For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Reading the announcements of government officials is more of an art than a science. It is appropriate to weigh the use of certain words rather than others, and take note of what a statement does not say. No one, including those involved in its preparation, can claim certainty as to how it should be read, much less what it can lead to as one statement provokes others from allies and antagonists.
Consider Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement that his government has agreed to a freeze of new housing construction in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) for a period of 10 months in an effort to persuade the Palestinians to begin negotiations toward a peace agreement.
While members of the government trumpeted the announcement as a gesture that should move the Palestinians, It did not take long for commentators to declare it a dead letter. Sure enough, within a day ranking Palestinians reiterated their new position that they would only start negotiations when there was a total freeze of construction (homes and other facilities), including the post-1967 neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
What does all this mean?
One interpretation is that it reflects the teething problems of the American president. When he and his secretary of state emphasized the need to freeze settlements, and included Jerusalem in the mandate, they brought the Palestinians to assert a demand they had not made before during 17 years of negotiations.
Another interpretation, not altogether different, is that the talk of negotiations is a game without end played by numerous governments. If officials are wise and have noticed what has happened since Oslo, they should realize that negotiations go nowhere as long as the Palestinians adhere to their mantras of refugee rights and 1967 borders. Since Gaza fell into the hands of Hamas, the chances of an agreement are even less. The Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas is barely holding on to the West Bank, propped up by Americans, Israelis and others. Should Abbas dare to show flexibility, his hold on power would be even more tenuous.
Even though wise leaders may recognize that reality, they cannot admit it, and give up the quest for peace. Who could do that when the future of the Holy Land is at stake? Moreover, there are unwise leaders in the bunch who may really believe in fairies and other delights, like peace between Israel and Palestine. With them beating the drums, and especially if they are the powerful Americans with a popular leader (who no other leader can publicly call naive), then the chorus joins in the pursuit of peace.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"