In the current pessimism that I feel in the Valley, a return to a semblance of normal in the West Bank and Gaza is seen as "progress." Difficult negotiations lead to freedom of movement and promises (already sporadically broken) to refrain from violence. People in any region (even the volatile Middle East) should be able to count on moving around for work or to visit families and staying alive another day. Still, I do not mean to belittle the agreements but to highlight how bad things got that this is demonstrates hopes realized.
I believe that peace is a possibility for two reasons: both the Israelis and Palestinians are led by pragmatists and both peoples are fed up with violence. Unfortunately, the real building-blocks of peace--trust and a willingness to compromise self-interests for mutual interests--are not yet present. Still, the fact that leaders met and promised to meet again is progress--as is the upcoming conference in London to work on reforming the Palestinian Authority to get it ready for becoming a true government.
Over the next few months, international news will hopefully bring us peace. At the same time, our local communities have opportunities to build a peaceful future on the foundation of hope.
On March 6th, there will be an Israel Advocacy Conference at UMASS. If I am involved, it will include advocacy for peace and coexistence. At the end of March, Amherst College will welcome Ruth Messinger President of American Jewish World Service, as its 2005 Scwemm Lecturer. She will talk about the ongoing-crisis in Darfur. I also plan on working harder on our campuses to promote peace and dialogue. If we can not bring together groups of students (Arab and/or Muslim and Jewish for example) in our sheltered campuses, it will not be possible to do so elsewhere.
I am glad that "Hope Springs Eternal"--without it there would be no progess. Let's keep hoping for peace and working to bring it speedily in our days (which is why I always sign my posts . . . )
B'shalom (in or with peace),