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Jubilee: Hope for Change After 50 Years

08/26/2017 09:14:03 AM


Hannah Orden

On May 21 Congregation Beth Hatikvah hosted Israeli storyteller and author Noa Baum. Noa performed her powerful one-woman show “A Land Twice Promised” which weaves together the story of Noa’s Jewish family and the story of her Palestinian friend Jumana. Both families lived in Jerusalem, and Noa presents the events of 1948 and 1967 from two very different perspectives as she relates first-person experiences of two generations of women.

Noa has been performing this show for many years, and she told us that people often ask her how she can keep going when nothing seems to change. Her response is that she has no choice. She has to keep believing that peace and understanding is possible.

Watching the performance in 2017 struck a particularly painful chord because this month is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. For many Jews the Six Day War was a time of euphoria when tiny Israel defeated much larger armies. It was seen as a modern David and Goliath story, and the fulfillment of an age-old dream to return to Jerusalem. However, over the past 50 years, the euphoria has faded in the face of ongoing Israeli military rule over territory captured in 1967 and the inability to achieve a peace agreement with Palestinians living in those territories.

Several Jewish organizations have noted the significance of 50 years, which in Jewish tradition marks yovel or Jubilee. In the Torah, yovelensures social and economic justice. In the 50th year all land reverts back to its original owners and all Hebrew slaves are freed. The words that describe the Jubilee are engraved on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” For those who had lost their land and their freedom due to economic hardship, the Jubilee offered hope that they could start over; everyone could have another chance.

In 2017 it is easy to despair that there will ever be a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Many believe that the expansion of Jewish settlements will soon make a two-state solution impossible. After 50 years of military rule, intifada, and failed negotiations, how can we still believe in peace and justice? Yet, the Jubilee offers a powerful reminder that the current situation does not have to be permanent. Our wise ancestors conceived of the radical idea that it is possible to begin again. There is always another chance. The possibility of Jubilee, of freedom for all the inhabitants of the land – Israelis and Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians – continues to offer us hope. As Noa Baum said, what choice do we have except to continue to believe that peace and understanding is possible?

Note: For those who missed Noa’s performance, she has written a memoir called “A Land Twice Promised, an Israeli Woman’s Quest for Peace.” There is a copy in the CBH library, and it is also available at –

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