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Do We Still Dare To Dream?
By Zalman Eisenstock
Leadership is not only about one's oratorical abilities or charisma, but,more importantly, it is about ideals, goals and vision. True leaders see change not only as possible, but as mandatory. In his most famous speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963 Martin Luther King said as follows:
"…but 100 years later (after the emancipation proclamation by Lincoln) we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination, but…somehow this situation can and will change. I still have a dream."
In April 1968 the dreamer was shot and killed by an assassin, but that did not shatter the dreams that he shared with his people. Today the leader of the United States is an African American-something nobody ever thought possible.
We are now at the beginning of a new year and a new decade here in Israel, and the question arises: Do we still have a dream? Do we have leaders with visions for our future?
From the exile in Babylon, to the exile in Ethiopia we have always been a nation of dreamers, a people who saw into the future for hope and a better life. And that future was always connected to the Land of Israel. Before he ever had one offspring Abraham was promised a land for his children. And yet, the greatness of Abraham was not as a conqueror or warrior, not as a philosopher or theologian, but as one who demanded justice, and as one who welcomed anyone and everyone (even the 3 angels who he thought were Arabs and who bowed down to the dust) into his home. His essence was as a lover of mankind, and as one who believed that change was possible.
Stanley Fisher, the head of the Bank of Israel, was awarded with the prize for the best governor in the entire world. Yes! The entire world. Our shekel is sturdier than the dollar, and we have little or no inflation. It would seem that we are on top of the world. And yet, for the last 17 years we have been pursuing an elusive peace with our neighbors, the peace that will guarantee our future here in the Land of our forefathers. During that time we have suffered great loss in lives of men, women and children who only wanted to live here in peace and tranquility. During all these years we have also seen tremendous poverty, hundreds of thousands who live below the poverty line. And we have also seen the expulsion of 10,000 Gush Katif residents, a period of heart wrenching scenes that will not go away. For most of those 10,000 our government provided very little in the way of solutions for housing and unemployment.
In the 1960's Simon and Garfunkel wrote about the "Sounds of Silence." "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls", they wrote.
Here, in Israel, the words of the prophets are on every street and every town for it is here that they spoke to our people, exhorting them to seek justice for the poor and the orphan and the widow. What would they say to us today? Would their message be any different for our leadership and Prime Minister addressing the beginning of the Winter session of the Knesset? Why do we only hear about settlement freezes and stalled negotiations. Do we not deserve to hear about what our future living in the land is all about? Do we not deserve to hear of the vision of our leaders concerning the tens of thousands of non Jews who are living here, and how to solve the conversion crisis that still lingers? Do we not deserve to hear about solutions for the unemployed, the poor and the elderly? I recently met an elderly man stooped over and in need of some guidance crossing the street. When I asked him why no one was with him he said that all his children live far away and that he has to manage by himself. I wondered how he takes care of himself on a daily basis, and where his next meal is coming from.
The wanderings of our forefathers throughout Canaan teach us how precious this land is for us and for our future, and yet it is their character, morality and concern for others that shaped who we are as a people. And the stories and struggles of their lives taught us eternal lessons. Lessons that made them great leaders-leaders who dared to dream of the future..
Yes, we should move forward toward peace with our Arab neighbors, but we also should move forward to bridge the gaps between rich and poor, between religious and non religious, between those seeking to join our people and those looking for meaning in our way of life. Change is not only possible, but it is mandatory. And change within society requires leaders who are willing not only to take chances on land swaps, but are willing to take chances for the betterment of our people.
from the December 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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