It's been two decades since words of hope have chimed from the leadership in Jerusalem.
There's a certain phrase in Hebrew, stemming from the military, called "ruach hamefaked," or literally, "the spirit of the commander." This spirit, certainly in army circumstances, supposedly embodies the ethics and culture of the commander and sets the tone for the forces.
The spirit of the commander in Israel today is divisive. The commander, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, through his rhetoric, is almost systematically instilling an aura of hopelessness and despair, and consequently tribalizing the Israeli people. From his warning that the Arabs voters are 'coming in droves,' to creating a constant us versus them discourse between Israeli Jewish and Arab lawmakers, and to his latest rant that completely absolves Adolf Hitler of exterminating six million Jews and instead blames the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem -- Netanyahu's spirit is as acrimonious as they come.
This dismal atmosphere can also be attributed to the harsh rhetoric coming from the Palestinian leadership, and from the vicious rumors that have swept through the social networks regarding the Temple Mount/al Aqsa mosque status quo. The rhetoric stemming out of Ramallah has inflammatory consequences that have led to unflinching violence.
It's a gloomy state of affairs.
Moreover, it's been two decades since the assassination of another commander, Yitzhak Rabin, and the hope in the region is barely visible. Some cling on to the thousands (100,000?) that came out to Rabin Square last weekend to commemorate the 20 years since Israeli right-wing extremist Yigal Amir murdered Rabin in the midst of a peace rally. And although for a fleeting moment, the whiff of hope circulated in the Tel Aviv bubble, it was nothing more than a Band-Aid on a bleeding open wound.
Words were spoken during the rally with caution as to not become political. Politicians weren't allowed to speak, it was a people's rally. What is more political, however, than a political assassination? A cold-blooded murder committed in the name of political ideologies, in the name of twisted view of democracy? The organizers were terrified to further divide Israeli society with a gathering that would utilize political rhetoric, but what other tool other than our words, with tens of thousands in the streets and thousands more watching from their living rooms, is at our disposal in order to invigorate a spirit of hope, a spirit of peace, than at the rally of the leader who came closest to verbalizing a solution?
We're quick to dismiss rhetoric as being un-impactful, as being a ploy to 'spin' or to waste time. It's all about policy, we write, and not hollow statements. Perhaps. But in an environment where the spirit, the ruach, of the commander is the one calling the shots, the rhetoric is the only thing we can cling on to. It won't move mountains, but it will install a discourse of hope.