On Saturday at the National Cathedral in D.C., Joe Lieberman spoke about his and John McCain’s Jerusalem dream; which is also a dream of Palestinian refugees.
By Eileen Fleming
Former senator Joe Lieberman’s eulogy for his friend and colleague Senator John McCain, recounted many tales depicting McCain as a friend, politician, and a moral man.
Lieberman spoke about John McCain as “a source of hope and inspiration for oppressed people throughout the world, as it was a source of security for allied countries that share our values” in particular Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was “one of John’s favorite cities in the world” and “one of his favorite things to do there was to stand on the balcony with Lindsey and me of our hotel looking out at the old city and discussing all of the religious and political history that happened there over the centuries.”
Lieberman recalled when he first told McCain that he had decided not to run for the senate again in 2012, he was “a little angry. But then the next day he called me and this is my best recollection of the conversation. He said ‘You know, I’ve been thinking if you go out into the private sector, you’re going to make some more money, and then you can afford to buy a second home in Jerusalem that has an extra room for me with a balcony where we can look out and that city and its history.’”
Lieberman continued, “Now sadly fate has intervened before we could realize that dream but I am comforted by the fact that Jerusalem is not just a holy, historic city, it is also the visionary symbol of the dreams that all people share and the destiny we all desire. It is the original heavenly shining city on the hill. In that sense for many people in the life of the spirit, Jerusalem, the shining city on the hill are really heaven, and it is to that heavenly Jerusalem where I am confident the soul of John Sidney McCain III is going now. I want to imagine that there is going to be a beautiful home waiting for him there with a balcony from which he can contemplate the shining city and hopefully inspire us here on earth to conduct ourselves with just some of the patriotism, principles and courage that characterize his magnificent life of service to America and to so many noble causes greater than himself…”
As I heard Lieberman speak those worlds I recalled this quote from Einstein:
‘This is a time when there seems to be a particular need for men of philosophical persuasion—that is to say, friends of wisdom and truth—to join together…We Jews should be, and remain, the carriers and patrons of spiritual values. But we should also always be aware of the fact that these spiritual values are and always have been the common goal of mankind.’
Then I remembered I first quoted that quote because of a Palestinian Muslim 1948 refugee, whose life inspired my first book, an historical fictional in which everything is true and almost everything actually happened.
An excerpt from KEEP HOPE ALIVE:
Chapter One: THE MORNING AFTER APRIL 4, 1968
Mary woke at dawn and re-entered the living room for the first time since she had said goodnight the night before. She was not surprised to see Khaled sprawled out in his recliner or Riad at peace on the sofa. But she was dismayed to see Art curled in fetal position on the black and white checkered tile at the front door.
She gently stepped over him into the red and white kitchen as the morning sun broke through the garden window. The sun illuminated the cherry-blonde slab stump of an ancient olive tree that had been hewn into a kitchen table and received as a wedding gift from family and friends, who lived in Khaled’s hometown, the village of Majd Al Krum, in Upper Galilee. Even on the most frigid morning, Mary felt warmed by the high-gloss patina of the tabletop, but held more dear the signatures and marks from the entire town etched underneath.
Mary silently performed the morning ritual of brewing the first of many pots of Turkish coffee for the day, gratefully inhaled the piquant aroma, and then quickly exited up the back staircase to the bedrooms to wake her daughter for school. When Mary returned to her kitchen after escorting Ahmeena to her third grade classroom, she was not surprised to find Khaled and Riad at the table, downing a second pot of the Turkish brew.
“Please, Mary, don’t say a word. I drank too much, and now I am paying the price.”
“Khaled, the pain in your face brings me to tears; you are clearly suffering. I will not add to your misery. But you, Riad–you look buoyant. What’s your secret?”
Riad chuckled. “Tolerance.”
Mary marveled at how his gleaming pate radiated the sun’s rejection through the garden window that showcased a pendulous purple wisteria and birdbath, where blue jays had immediately gathered to eat the seed she had just put out.
At that moment, Art stumbled into the room, banging his shoulder against the wall and hip into the butcher-block counter. “Oiy! Sylvia is going to fry me! I thought I’d be back at her sister’s by noon, but that bad news about Martin Luther King, Jr., hit us all like a left to the liver! I thought last night would be only good reminiscing, but reality intruded. Hmm, Thanks, Mary, I need this brew.” He nodded and gratefully downed the pungent coffee that Mary had just set before him.
“So, who wants breakfast?”
“Just toast, Mary, my love,” Khaled whimpered weakly.
“Same for me.” Riad beamed, and Mary thought how grateful she was to know him.
Art whispered, “Have you any Mylanta, Mary?”
Mary suppressed a smile as she turned to retrieve it, when the unmistakable seven knock’s of Ahmad was heard at the front door….
Riad beamed. “Jack, your brother is a wise man to think of such a just penance for Christians who may forget the other names for Jesus, like Emmanuel, meaning ‘God is with us,’ and the Prince of Peace. And Martin Luther King, Jr., walked in his footsteps; I hope we never forget his message of justice and equality for all humanity.”
Khaled met Art’s eyes and gently spoke. “You know, Martin Luther King is foremost the voice for the Negro, but he also speaks for all who seek justice. He said, ‘We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time for justice; now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to lift our nation from injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.’”
Art stabbed out his cigarette and injected, “Yeah, and do you know what Reverend King said just a few weeks ago? He said, ‘Peace for Israel means security, and we stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.’”
Khaled nearly blubbered, “Reality? The reality is that Israel’s democracy does not extend to Palestinians, whose families have lived there for centuries! Martin Luther King also spoke about not ‘being satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’8 Reverend King also spoke about his people’s great trials, tribulations, and creative suffering. He spoke about injustice, but offered such hope for change, because the American dream is that all men are created equal. This is also the Palestinian dream. Reverend King spoke of his dream, and I, too, have a dream, that underneath the shade of olive trees, the descendants of Abraham will one day sit down at the table of brotherhood.”
Art lit another cigarette as he added, “My rabbi always says, ‘If we would all just do like Micah told, we’d be alright. Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’”
Khaled erupted. “I wonder if Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol ever read Micah. I read that when his generals told him that the IDF was the greatest army since King David, he became ecstatic! I cannot understand why the American government is ignoring the situation in my homeland, when, in 1956, the US demanded Israel withdraw from the Sinai Desert back to the international border after only three months. The Six Day War was a year ago, and no such demands were made.
“They have turned a blind eye to the destruction of Palestinian towns, and I cannot believe America has not stood up to the Israelis. Not a word of condemnation about the massive building projects in the West Bank, Sinai, Eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights! Not a word that Palestinians are still living in refugee camps, and their homes and olive groves have been plowed over!
“Why doesn’t America demand equally just treatment for Palestinians, too? Yes, yes, yes, America is focused on Vietnam. Now we mourn Martin Luther King in America, and I mourn the lack of justice in my homeland.”
Art violently snuffed out his cigarette and boomed, “Look, the situation is untenable. We got nowhere discussing this last night, and you cannot forget what my people, my very family, suffered beyond belief from the Nazis! You cannot compare the two! Then, we must endure the inflammatory rhetoric to ‘push the Jews into the sea!’ Why, of course we believed another Holocaust was about to happen. How can you blame us after all we have suffered while the world remained mute? Nobody spoke out to protect us when the Nazis were exterminating us in ovens. My God! How can you blame us for attacking first? Anyone would have, if they had suffered as my people have. How can you blame us for attacking first?”
Khaled kindly replied, “Of course, we all deeply regret the atrocities that were inflicted upon the Jewish people. But that pain should not be used as a reason to inflict pain on others.”
Riad shook his head, removed his thick-lens, thin wire-rimmed spectacles and rubbed his myopic eyes. “Yes, we all agree and we must be sensitive to the suffering the Jewish people have endured throughout history. I was in Egypt when the UN forces stationed on the Egyptian-Israeli border left, and what happened next? The Egyptians blockaded the Straits of Tiran and cut off Israeli shipping access to the Port of Eliat. Such infantile behavior from world leaders! It’s always about control and keeping power. If I were Irish, it would certainly get my Irish up!”
Jack and Riad shared a smile as Art erupted. “Yes, Khaled, it is true that just a few weeks after that blockade, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq signed a mutual defense agreement designed to facilitate a combined attack on Israel. They want to obliterate Israel! You see Khaled, Israel had no choice but to attack first!”
Khaled was miserable. “I read that President Johnson was asked to intervene, but I am sad. Vietnam preoccupies this country. I am sad about many things. It was only seven years ago in his farewell address that President Eisenhower warned the American people to beware of the military-industrial complex. He warned us of the danger of becoming dependent on the manufacturing of weapons to stimulate our economy. It was a year ago that Martin Luther King warned us that ‘any nation, who, year after year, spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’What I see going on in the world is that everyone seems to believe that stockpiling weapons will ensure peace and provide many jobs. This is false security, and sows the seeds that war is the way to peace.”
Riad rubbed his gleaming dome and looked directly at Art. “The Jewish people have been threatened throughout their entire history. It is understandable they are paranoid. It is justified! But, that does not justify them treating others unjustly. The Israeli nation is surrounded by refugee camps–refugee camps filled with indigenous Palestinians who were forced off their land by threat of their own holocaust. Poor leadership on all sides brings us to this place in time. The horrors and injustice of the Holocaust are still fresh in Jewish minds. It should remain fresh within all our minds. We should never forget the injustice of the Holocaust. We should never forget that man’s inhumanity to man was able to proliferate because good people did nothing. The nations of the world turned a blind eye to the pain and injustice the Jewish people suffered until too many had died. Now, the Palestinians are being ignored by the world and are fighting back in ways that will not help their cause. Injustice must always be confronted and be withstood by peaceful means. When will this be understood?”
“Get real, Riad. The PLO wants to wipe us out! But God is on our side. After all, we won the war in only six days! The Arab nations received a left to the liver by Israeli’s pre-emptive strike, and now we control the Sinai, Gaza Strip, Suez Canal in Egypt, West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The entire city of Jerusalem is under Israeli control! Surely you see the hand of God in this?”
Khaled was steaming, while Riad gently spoke. “I know you do, Art, but I see a different side. Superior military force, and the fact that Israel was supplied with American intelligence and knew exactly where to strike, won it. Eighteen thousand Arab soldiers died, and Palestinian refugees continue to be ignored. By her silence, America has legitimized the Israeli victory, and I fear ahead of us will be more injustice, death, and destruction. Last December, George Habash founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is a terrorist organization inspired by communism. Each side ups the ante with more death and destruction. When will it ever be enough?”
Art sighed deeply and offered, “You are right, Riad; when will it be enough? The Torah teaches that everyone is a part of God and created in the divine image. We can even agree with Jesus that the greatest command is that we love God with our whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength. I suppose, if everyone did that, it would be a perfect world….
Riad interrupted, “I won’t comment on that, but in 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued a declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, condemning anti-Semitism, and recognizing ‘the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.’ Now, I realize nineteen centuries of anti-Semitism and some very unholy behavior will not erase the sins of the fathers, but with this new revelation begins the healing. Hope emerges every time a wrong has been admitted and corrected.”
Art had returned unnoticed and had silently stood in the doorway until Riad finished and then softly spoke. “Excuse me. The book Sylvia had been reading to me while we traveled–it’s a collection of Einstein’s essays. I was driving down your street when a white cat darted in front of me, and I hit the brakes. The book fell on the floor, and that cat flew up a tree and sat, and just stared down at me with his icy blue eyes. The book fell open to ‘The Calling of The Jews’ and I quote: ‘This is a time when there seems to be a particular need for men of philosophical persuasion—that is to say, friends of wisdom and truth—to join together…We Jews should be, and remain, the carriers and patrons of spiritual values. But we should also always be aware of the fact that these spiritual values are and always have been the common goal of mankind.’
Eileen Fleming writes
Eileen Fleming produced the UNCENSORED “30 Minutes with Vanunu” Mordechai, Israel’s nuclear whistleblower
Contact her HERE
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