Looking Past Despair

In a series of exchanges with Sayed Kashua, an Israeli-Palestinian writer who expatriated to the US this summer, Etgar Keret explains why he maintains hope that change will come to Israel:

It’s easy for me to understand why so many Israelis have chosen despair. The history of this conflict is endlessly depressing. We’ve seen so many missed opportunities, shows of distrust, and lack of courage on both sides throughout the years, occurring almost as persistently as a force of nature. But, even if everyone is to blame for the failure, we Israelis—sorry for dragging you into this, too, Sayed, but a thousand green cards won’t help you; to me, you’ll always be an Israeli—are the only ones capable of beginning a process that will rescue us from this inhuman situation. Israel is the stronger side in this conflict, and, as such, it is the only side that can truly initiate change. And to do that it has to part company with that despair, which, like many other kinds of despair, is nothing but an ongoing self-fulfilling prophecy.

And I believe that it will happen.

I believe that this despair is temporary, and that even though there are quite a few political elements that would rather see us despairing, and even though it sometimes seems as if enormous forces are working to convince us that hope is just another word in our national anthem and not a powerful force that can lead to change, people feel deep down that the terrible situation we find ourselves in is not really the only dish on the regional menu. When I look around, apart from the minority of Jewish messianists cavorting on the hilltops and in the Knesset, I don’t see people who are happy with the existing situation and are willing to accept it. Only some of them have a moral problem with the occupation, but even the ones who don’t realize that until the Palestinian people have a country no one’s going to have an easy time of it here. War is expensive, as our Minister of Defense reminded us recently, and each person in this country is personally invested in the next war, with a son, a father, a brother, or a friend who will go into Gaza for the umpteenth time. And the fact that all those people who are not happy still haven’t found an effective plan of action or a worthy leader they can follow is only a temporary situation. Yes, this temporary situation is terrible, but, paradoxically, the worse it gets, the more inevitable change becomes.