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Realizing God's dream for the Holy Land

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Editor's Note:

Who understands what Apartheid is better than Bishop
Desmond Tutu? He speaks from authority and compassion.

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                Video Clip Of The Week

                David Broza At Masada 

The Sunrise Concert, with special guests Shawn Colvin and 
Jackson Browne, airing in December on PBS stations nation-
wide. This peace advocate has given a concert every year 
for the past 14 years on Masada. Take a look! 

View: David Broza At Masada 
Realizing God's dream for the Holy Land -By Desmond Tutu   

WHENEVER I am asked if I am optimistic about an end to the 
Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I say that I am not. Optimism 
requires clear signs that things are changing - meaningful 
words and unambiguous actions that point to real progress. 
I do not yet hear enough meaningful words, nor do I yet see 
enough unambiguous deeds to justify optimism. 

However, that does not mean I am without hope. I am a 
Christian. I am constrained by my faith to hope against 
hope, placing my trust in things as yet unseen. Hope 
persists in the face of evidence to the contrary, 
undeterred by setbacks and disappointment. Hoping against 
hope, then, I do believe that a resolution will be found. 
It will not be perfect, but it can be just; and if it is 
just, it will usher in a future of peace. 

My hope for peace is not amorphous. It has a shape. It is 
not the shape of a particular political solution, although 
there are some political solutions that I believe to be 
more just than others. 

Neither does my hope take the shape of a particular people, 
although I have pleaded tirelessly for international 
attention to be paid to the misery of Palestinians, and I 
have roundly condemned the injustices of certain Israeli 
policies that compound that misery. Thus I am often accused 
of siding with Palestinians against Israeli Jews, naively 
exonerating the one and unfairly demonizing the other. 

Nevertheless, I insist that the hope in which I persist is 
not reducible to politics or identified with a people. It 
has a more encompassing shape. I like to call it "God's 

God has a dream for all his children. It is about a day 
when all people enjoy fundamental security and live free of 
fear. It is about a day when all people have a hospitable 
land in which to establish a future. More than anything 
else, God's dream is about a day when all people are
accorded equal dignity because they are human beings. In 
God's beautiful dream, no other reason is required. 

God's dream begins when we begin to know each other 
differently, as bearers of a common humanity, not as 
statistics to be counted, problems to be solved, enemies 
to be vanquished or animals to be caged. God's dream 
begins the moment one adversary looks another in the eye 
and sees himself reflected there. 

All things become possible when hearts fixed in mutual 
contempt begin to grasp a transforming truth; namely, that 
this person I fear and despise is not an alien, something 
less than human. This person is very much like me, and 
enjoys and suffers, loves and fears, wonders, worries, and 
hopes. Just as I do, this person longs for well-being in a 
world of peace. 

God's dream begins with this mutual recognition - we are 
not strangers, we are kin. It culminates in the defeat of 
oppression perpetrated in the name of security, and of 
violence inflicted in the name of liberation. God's dream 
routs the cynicism and despair that once cleared the path 
for hate to have its corrosive way with us, and for 
ravenous violence to devour everything in sight.  

God's dream comes to flower when everyone who claims to be 
wholly innocent relinquishes that illusion, when everyone 
who places absolute blame on another renounces that lie, 
and when differing stories are told at last as one shared 
story of human aspiration. God's dream ends in healing and 
reconciliation. Its finest fruit is human wholeness 
flourishing in a moral universe. 

In the meanwhile, between the root of human solidarity and 
the fruit of human wholeness, there is the hard work of 
telling the truth. 


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From my experience in South Africa I know that truth-
telling is hard. It has grave consequences for one's life 
and reputation. It stretches one's faith, tests one's 
capacity to love, and pushes hope to the limit. At times, 
the difficulty of this work can make you wonder if people 
are right about you, that you are a fool. 

No one takes up this work on a do-gooder's whim. It is not 
a choice. One feels compelled into it. Neither is it work 
for a little while, but rather for a lifetime - and for 
more than a lifetime. It is a project bigger than any one 
life. This long view is a source of encouragement and 
perseverance. The knowledge that the work preceded us and 
will go on after us is a fountain of deep gladness that 
no circumstance can alter. 

Nothing, however, diminishes the fear and trembling that 
accompany speaking the truth to power in love. An acute 
awareness of fallibility is a constant companion in this 
task, but because nothing is more important in the current 
situation than to speak as truthfully as one can, there 
can be no shrinking from testifying to what one sees and 

What do I see and hear in the Holy Land? Some people cannot 
move freely from one place to another. A wall separates 
them from their families and from their incomes. They 
cannot tend to their gardens at home or to their lessons 
at school. They are arbitrarily demeaned at checkpoints and 
unnecessarily beleaguered by capricious applications of 
bureaucratic red tape. I grieve for the damage being done 
daily to people's souls and bodies. I have to tell the 
truth: I am reminded of the yoke of oppression that was 
once our burden in South Africa. 

I see and hear that ancient olive trees are uprooted. 
Flocks are cut off from their pastures and shepherds. The 
homes of some people are bulldozed even as new homes for 
others are illegally constructed on other people's land. 
I grieve for the land that suffers such violence, the 
marring of its beauty, the loss of its comforts, the 
despoiling of its yield. I have to tell the truth: I am 
reminded of the bitter days of uprooting and despoiling 
in my own country. 

I see and hear that young people believe that it is heroic 
and pious to kill others by killing themselves. They strap 
bombs to their torsos to achieve liberation. They do not 
know that liberation achieved by brutality will defraud in 
the end. I grieve the waste of their lives and of the lives 
they take, the loss of personal and communal security they 
cause, and the lust for revenge that follows their crimes, 
crowding out all reason and restraint. I have to tell the 
truth: I am reminded of the explosive anger that inflamed 
South Africa, too. 

Some people are enraged by comparisons between the 
Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what happened in South 
Africa. There are differences between the two situations, 
but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to 
yield clarity about what is going on. Moreover, for those 
of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the 
apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is 
also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in 
our hope that things can change. 

Indeed, because of what I experienced in South Africa, 
I harbor a vast, unreasoning hope for Israel and the 
Palestinian territories. South Africans, after all, had 
no reason to suppose that the evil system and the cycles 
of violence that were sapping the soul of our nation would 
ever change. There was nothing special or different about 
South Africans to deserve the appearance of the very thing 
for which we prayed and worked and suffered so long. 

Most South Africans did not believe they would live to 
see a day of liberation. They did not believe that their 
children's children would see it. They did not believe that 
such a day even existed, except in fantasy. But we have 
seen it. We are living now in the day we longed for. 

It is not a cloudless day. The divine arc that bends toward 
a truly just and whole society has not yet stretched fully 
across my country's sky like a rainbow of peace. It is not 
finished, it does not always live up to its promise, it is 
not perfect - but it is new. A brand new thing, like a 
dream of God, has come about to replace the old story of 
mutual hatred and oppression. 

I have seen it and heard it, and so to this truth, too, I 
am compelled to testify - if it can happen in South Africa, 
it can happen with the Israelis and Palestinians. There is 
not much reason to be optimistic, but there is every reason 
to hope. 

 Desmond Tutu is the former archbishop of Cape Town,
 chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation
 Commission, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 

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