Robert Eisen

One of the most important lessons, true literally and figuratively, I learned in preschool is that square pegs do not fit in round holes. Consider one example, the current situation in Israel.

The reports of what’s happening would have us witnessing a tragic pogrom against the people living in Gaza, who are peacefully demonstrating against a violent oppressor. Body counts are similar to the ones I remember being broadcast during the Vietnam War, only this time they are accompanied by “film at 11.” In essence, we are being exposed to one narrative that is neatly packaged as a square peg. And yet, that square peg hardly fits in the round hole of life as it is lived.

Consider another piece of the narrative that we do not always hear. Consider the reports that Hamas is paying the people in Gaza to demonstrate. Consider that these “protests” are staged with military exactness to draw the most media attention, using women and children as the first wave of attack to draw the most sympathy. Consider that the “protesters” are not chanting pithy statements pleading for freedom, but throwing themselves, along with rocks and firebombs, to do the most damage they can.

Consider that Hamas has attacked its own supply lines and refused humanitarian aid offered by Israel to the people of Gaza. Consider that there is no Israeli presence in Gaza: These attacks are against Israel as a sovereign nation. Consider how America would respond if 50,000 Canadians stood on the shore of the Niagara River and tried to poison the water while showering rockets into Buffalo.

Consider the fact that neither narrative tells the whole story.

The truth of the matter is that the situation is messy. There is more than one narrative and they all must be considered if any progress is to be made. Israel has its narrative. Hamas has its narrative. The people of Gaza have their narrative. The world has many more. Which one is right? That question is the squarest peg of all. Square pegs do not fit in round holes.

It is easy to sit here at the safe distance of over 7,500 miles and pontificate on what is wrong and what is right; to point fingers and find an easy solution to what is a very complicated situation. However, square pegs do not fit into round holes.

And, yet, consider too, a quote attributed to Golda Meir, when Prime Minister of Israel: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

There are no easy answers, or explanations, or even excuses for the current situation. But there is one solution: finding a way to have the narratives speak with each other so that the harshness of their corners might be rounded into a softer shape that will fit into a framework of peace. That will not be accomplished with rocks and firebombs and as many bodies as one can muster, It can, and will, be accomplished when love for the future is greater than the hate.

The “last words” at the dedication of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem came in a song: “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” (“Peace Will Come Upon Us”). Those who listened carefully would have heard that the word “Peace” was sung in Hebrew and Arabic. Such is the stuff out of which round pegs are made. Where are the other voices willing to do the same?

Robert Eisen is rabbi of Congregation Anshei Israel.