Menorah. Wikimedia Commons

My Hope: This Dialogue with You

From a kibbutz in Upper Galilee, the words of a Jewish woman met almost by chance. “Hope is this dialogue that has sprung forth like a blessing… it is this miracle that has made you open your gates to your elder brothers”
Angelica Calo Livne

I return home with Kiriat Shmone behind me. It is a nippy day, pouring rain interspersed with a dazzling sun. On the shoulder of the road, in front of the steep drop down to the Valley of the Hula, I see stopped cars and many people taking pictures of something. I turn my head curiously and see a superb, perfect, sparkling rainbow proudly radiant across the sky, from the west to beyond the Golan Heights, an image that for an instant leaves me breathless. Ever since I was a child, rainbows have always exercised a mysterious and fascinating power over me, through the magic of the different colors that come together yet remain themselves and turn into poetry. Red, yellow, green, blue, one next to the other, seem to join together in one sole breathtaking spectacle to show us, yet once more, His benevolence, His desire to make us happy, and we observe and fill ourselves with this beauty and each time are amazed even more! When Noah came out of the ark, where he had gathered animals of every species, the rainbow was there, majestic, a triumph of colors in front of that multitude of diversity, sounds, shapes, thoughts, and hearts.

And blue and red, the cow and the peacock, the rose and the hawthorn have the same value; each and every thing was created in order to give something to the world! To each of us, every fruit, every wild flower, every musical note, every living creature, was given the gift of uniqueness; we were created different from each other in order to be ourselves and to be a part, with our own particularity, of an apparently inexplicable divine design. The more the particularity of each one is accentuated, the more fascinating will be the encounter between the various entities. A completely yellow rainbow would not be less dazzling… but all the colors of the rainbow that flood your eyes in the same instant are an indescribable sensation! One single note is a sound, but the sequence of many tiny notes becomes an immortal work.

Understanding and studying the different cultures, the traditions of peoples, the festivals, holidays, customs, prayers, names, proverbs, and lullabies of others, of those who are different from us because of religion, nationality, or people, is one of the most exciting adventures in the world. It is something that has to be taught to your children from a very young age.

We believe in G-d. We call Him the G-d of Israel, we accept His laws as written in the Torah… but there are others who call G-d Jesus, and others who call Him Allah, and others still who call Him Buddha, and this does not preclude everyone being able to sit together around a table to eat, each one his own foods, or to prepare a project or set up a show.

Pope John Paul II and then Fr Giussani have called us Jews “elder brothers,” and as such we regard and accept our other brothers with benevolence and curiosity, but not all these brothers accept us with the same tolerance, nor have they done so in the course of the centuries. We have been traveling the same path for four thousand years, waiting for someone or something that will improve the world. In the course of centuries, many have chosen to take a different path, which perhaps appeared to their hearts to be more luminous or more blooming, and the attempt has often been made, even by force, to make us change our path as well, by persecuting us or attempting to suppress us because we stubbornly insisted on traveling this same ancient road pointed out by the Torah. We have undergone torture and humiliation, we have suffered, and this has made us paradoxically more tolerant toward others because we know the bitter taste of suffering, destruction, and the desire to annihilate us. Every Friday evening we sanctify the wine and say, “Remember what was done to you in Egypt!”

Like the stripes on the cloak of Joseph who was sold by his brothers, we, each one different from the other, are scattered all over the world, and those stripes are like furrows in our body. We stripes of the same cloak, we Jews so closely united and so different from each other, have countless subtle affinities also with other peoples!

I believe that the person who is rich inside, who loves what he has, who is sure of himself and his faith, can love and accept others without reservations! He has no need to predominate, to impose himself and his faith on others. Whoever uses faith for dominion moves away from Him, rather than drawing near. How can G-d, who created us and gave us the Earth to live and grow in, want His children to destroy themselves in His name?

This is why I teach my children to listen, to appreciate, to ask, to study, to respect, and to marvel at the miracle that can bring about an encounter with others, with those different from us to whom we open up, to all those who light a little light, giving us a sign. Dialogue is like a bridge between two banks that are farther and farther apart, between which it is impossible not to drown. Today we are divided, scattered on a thousand shores: Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, left and right, religious and laity, men and women, young and old, north and south. How many, many battles will still have to be fought before we succeed in discovering the savor of the marvelous discovery that is the new, the other?

Some time ago, Fr Giussani said, “I think that unless the end of the world comes first, sixty or seventy years from now Jews and Christians can be one…”

My companion, the father of my children, and I are one; and yet we are completely different. He is calm and reflective; I am stormy. He is a physicist and mathematician; I am an artist. He is practically a non-believer; I am permanently engaged in a dialogue with Heaven… And yet, we are one, and our children are the most beautiful expressions of this oneness, where everything melts together to create a positivity.

Recent events give me hope. Hope is this dialogue that has sprung forth like a blessing, after two thousand years, between you and us. Hope is this inestimable miracle that has made you open the gates to your elder, mistreated brothers and that, by the merits of this father of you all who is Fr Giussani, made you feel the desire to discover certain deep roots that you did not think were yours, too! What a relief! A gift, a real miracle! It is only the beginning… we have to talk, we have to look at each other, show even more the forgotten faces of ourselves, discover our common values, the ones that are handed down from father to son from the dawn of humanity and that so many try to monopolize. Perhaps our generation will not have this joy, perhaps it is not yet the right moment, but we have the responsibility of our children, and of the children of our children that G-d may protect them, and if the prophet Isaiah said it, then sooner or later it will happen: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is 2:4).

Amen, let it be.