The Palestinian State by Rabbi Dan Cohen Sherbok provides a vital and timely contribution toward the search for justice and peace in the Middle East, from a religious Jewish perspective. Written by a Jewish Rabbi, the title is intentionally provocative but sums up his hopes for peace with justice for Jews and Palestinians. Security for Israel is linked to justice for Palestinians.
When the Zionist colonisation of Palestine is increasingly being driven by Orthodox settlers who claim divine authority for their exclusive and expansionist agenda, Dan Cohen Sherbok draws attention to an alternative and beautiful Jewish liberation theology, rooted firmly in the Hebrew scriptures.
Dan Cohen Sherbok shows that at the heart of the Hebrew canon is an ethical tradition that respects human dignity, and recognises the intrinsic equality of Jews and Palestinians since both are created in the image and likeness of God. The Passover not only looks back to the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery, but points forward and should inspire compassion for Palestinians who long to escape from exile too. Similarly, the imperative of the Hebrew prophets demands equality for all, which today requires justice and mercy toward Palestinian aspirations for self determination and a homeland of their own.
Time is running out to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, in part because people tend to hold polarised and entrenched positions. It is therefore difficult to hear the cry, or feel the pain felt by the other side. Empathy is in short supply. Pessimism is common currency. Distrust in diplomacy is growing. Interminable peace negotiations are leading to cynicism. Hopelessness and despair, especially among the young, is breeding radicalism and fermenting violent extremism on both sides.
For those holding entrenched positions, this book may well make for uncomfortable reading because Dan Cohen Sherbok presents the history and aspirations of both sides with fairness and compassion. It is therefore essential reading for those who believe the unsolvable can be solved.
I share Dan Cohen Sherbok’s view that an inclusive and lasting peace in the Middle East is truly possible because it reflects the heart and will of God.
Dan used some of my photos of the apartheid wall around Bethlehem ghetto for the cover.