In August 1994, I was an introspective, brainy 16-year-old, fresh from a summer in Israel with a busload of other 16-year-olds. On my last morning in Jerusalem, I had watched the sun rise: cool breezes over ancient golden stones. I heard church bells ring and the Muslim call to prayer, whispering my own Hebrew dreams into fuzzy pink air. As a Jewish teen who went (reluctantly) to Israel for the Roman ruins but stayed for the prayers, when we chanted under desert stars I was suspended somewhere in between Reform Jewish teenagerhood and a future as a religious studies professor—plus my always evolving, complex relationship with Jewish adulthood.
This was when I first encountered Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India.
According to the consensus among American commentators, reflecting the views of the administration and Congress, a peace process that was on the verge of a breakthrough a few months ago has broken down because of the Palestinians’ intransigence.
Middle East summits come and go with one repeated mantra: bring an end to the violence. That plea is always interpreted as a demand for both sides to stop shooting at each other and settle down long enough for their leaders to hammer out an agreement that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It won’t happen, of course.