Thursday, January 05, 2006

Prayer for Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
BCP p. 815

Night before last as I was driving home I listened to an interview of President and Mrs. Carter on the radio. I didn't hear the whole program, but it was probably from the Carter Center in Atlanta. Doesn't matter. What stayed in my mind was a story told by Mrs. Carter as one of the most memorable moments of their time in the White House. It happened at the end of the Camp David negotiations, which resulted in an agreement between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.

Apparently after thirteen days of work the deal was still not going to work out. So the three men actually signed off on a press release announcing the unhappy result. As is the custom, pictures were made of the signing ceremony, and the pictures were to be about the only momento of the work they had done. At the suggestion of his secretary, President Carter had the White House photographer make a series of individual photos for Israel's Prime Minister for each of his grandchildren.

He handed the pictures to Mr. Begin, each one inscribed to a different grandchild, after they had signed a document that they had failed to reach agreement. As the prime minister looked at the pictures, Mrs. Carter said that tears came into his eyes. He was so deeply moved that he approached Carter and said that he had changed his mind. He was going to sign an agreement after all. President Carter believed that he changed his mind because he wanted peace for his grandchildren.

Leter, when Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Begin came back to Camp David from Washingron where they had been attending some function or other, Prime Minister Begin barely acknowledged Mrs. Carter and went directly to his wife and said, "Momma, we are going to go down in history for what we have done!"

There are several versions of this story, but they are all the same in substance. The details are not important. What is important is that so many people have been working for so many years -- my whole life -- toward peace between Israel and it's neighbors. That conflict has been an endless theme I have come to accept as part of the political landscape in that part of the world. I find it touching that within hours of hearing that story told first-hand there is yet another signal event in the life of Israel.

The loss of Ariel Sharon is a tragic event on that landscape. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are saying good-riddance, but had it not been Sharon, it would have been someone else. Any solution will in the end make a lot of people angry and dissatisfied. Let us pray for the best and hope that somehow this new fragile moment can be bridged safely.

Reams of commentary will be published, but this simple remark from Helena Cobban sticks in my mind:
...I disagree with the hyperbole engaged in by one Palestinian commentator, Ghazi al-Saadi, who reportedly gushed that Sharon has been "the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians' land." Untrue. Yitzhak Rabin pioneered that position in modern times-- and lost his life for it a decade ago.

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