The following is from Meretz USA’s immediate past president, Lilly Rivlin:
I went to Annapolis to cheer on the peace conference on Tuesday.
Three-quarters of those traveling with me on the bus from NYC were young people. Tammy Shapiro, the Director of Union of Progressive Zionists who ran the rally, is a young person. In fact, most of the speakers there were under the age of 30. Leading us in song were the two co-chairs of Habonim-Dror. Noam Shalef, representing Americans for Peace Now, is also a young person. Halleluyah. The baton has passed; at the very least it’s shared.
It was exhilarating, yet I also had mixed feelings, especially since we stood on the lawn of St. Anne’s Church not far from the Annapolis State House, probably no more than 30 miles from the moshava where I went to summer camp more than 50 years ago to be inculcated with the socialist-Zionist values that have influenced me throughout my life.
It was a beautiful and windy day. I held my sign “Negotiate for Peace,” standing next to my peers, facing the traffic circle before us, cars honking, people staring at the more than 100 mainly young people who care, who in the face of much skepticism, put their bodies where their hopes are, to take a political action that may end up on the nightly news for one minute.
But it was more than that: it was acting in concert with other people that make me yearn to remember the words of Hannah Arendt— something about participating in the public sphere that makes one more human.
And the surreal: We walked from the church to the waterfront, towards the closed off area where the dignitaries were meeting. We were guided by the Maryland Police to one side of the broad street, across from the Lubavitcher contingent who had come on a bus from Monsey, NY to voice their opposition to the Annapolis conference. We stood across from each other waving opposing signs. A group of four townies from Annapolis stood nearby, “Don’t these American Jews have peace?,” one asked cynically.
On the way back to our bus, I was stopped by two tall and well-groomed women who introduced themselves. They were evangelical Christians who had come to Annapolis to pray. They had been praying all day, they said. One of them, with long flowing blond hair, recounted that she had been to Israel many times, that Israel was the apple of God’s eye, and that Israel should not give up one inch of land. I differed with her, I said, but our differences deserved more time than we had. She accompanied me to the bus overflowing with faith that God would intervene and do his best. I was not assured, I said politely.
On the bus, a few of us old timers engaged and disagreed mightily about the details of the two opposing narratives, Israeli Jewish and the Palestinian— surely echoing, I thought, the back-and-forth agreements and disagreements, accusations and recriminations among the negotiators.
Am I hopeful? Well, nine organizations came together for the rally. And 49 countries (including most Arab governments) came together with Israel in Annapolis. This has never happened before.