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Yesterday the United Nations moved to complete the promise of November 29, 1947. My friend, Rabbi Hillel Levine, brought this message home in a letter to a Palestinian-American friend. I share it with you, with modest edits and his permission, with great respect for the subtlety with which a great mind approaches this complicated issue:

Professor S
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Dear S:

What should I say to my dearest Palestinian friend? Mazal Tov?

You are not only a man with many Jewish friends but in your own contemplative and dignified way, you are a friend of the Jewish people, understanding their strivings, vulnerabilities, and pretensions that cannot always be brought into balance. You know that wishing someone "good luck" is a diversion from hard effort but also a residual category for taking into account the failures of all sorts of good intentions.

So, S, let it be, indeed, Mazal Tov! Let's dance a hora with feet kicking, together in a circle and let's turn it into a debka, as well, swinging from side to side but with steps moving forward with determination. Let's think of the tragedies that we have faced and let's rejoice in the hope and trust that we still can promulgate and share.

Without getting into the details of the strained relations expressed in the prelude to any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that are attempted, lets consider how appropriate it was of Palestinian leaders to choose November 29th for their appeal to the UN for recognition and dignity. And lets recognize how deaf many Jews must be not to hear in yesterday's political drama the earnest acknowledgement of your people that 65 years ago, when the insoluble problem of countervailing claims that could not be settled by any principles of justice and equity finally were placed on the table, that they could not partake in opting for compromise. After much bloodshed, exile, and suffering on all sides, we are back at the same point.

Among the first words that every Jewish school child for millennia studied, particularly those like the "Settlers," who study the Talmud, is the following: "Two people who are grabbing to possess  the same garment. One says, "It is all mine," and the other says, "It is all mine." The Talmud makes clear what the solution should be, without any sentimentality nor equivocation: "Yahloku, they should divide it." Pious Jews, from ancient times on, not only recited but enacted the principle through the laws of Jubilee, "The earth is the Lord's."

We must now transform dance and drama and religious thinking into facts on the ground. I look forward to walking with you through the Israel and Palestine liberated from the destruction and self-destruction that the last 65 years have imposed on our peoples.

Yesterday, I wrote your  cousin Z, to whom you were so kind to introduce me, that I would love to meet with him in New York, as I think he said he would be, or better yet, in Boston with you joining us. I hope that this will happen.

As always,

Hillel

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