Peace Efforts Must Continue, He Says

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Though peace is elusive, journalist Ari Shavit is optimistic about Israel’s future and wants Jews around the world to embrace his homeland again.

Shavit was the speaker for this year’s Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum, presented by the Drew Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict. He described his bestselling book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel as a personal narrative, including the story of his great-grandfather’s emigration to Israel in the 1890s from London to escape growing European anti-Semitism.

Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz, said one of his goals in writing the book was to help bring Israelis together, adding that the ethos that bound them has evaporated over time, “We Israelis have lost our narrative.” He said he hoped his book could change that, “It’s not a history book, not a political book. It’s a book about human beings, about life stories.”

Shavit said despite previous failures, Israel must continue to pursue peace, though it has given up lands, claims, and settlements in the past only to be attacked with bombs and rockets in return. He noted that three recent American presidents have tried and failed to broker peace and he wishes John Kerry success, but admits the chances for failure are high, “We must keep trying for peace; we have a moral and political obligation to keep trying.”

However, Shavit said Israelis must acknowledge painful events from the past, including the expulsion of Arabs in Lydda during a three-day battle in 1948, but says it must be seen in a historical, wartime context. He called on Israel to abandon practices that don’t work anymore – including the occupation of Palestinian territories and said it must enlist the help of the Arab world to better the lives of Palestinians.

Shavit said he wants to inspire Jews around the world to embrace Israel again and noted that though the first settlers included the war torn and refugees, they established a prosperous Democratic society, “This is the incredible, incredible Israeli spirit. They’re making the best of a terrible situation.” – Liz Moore