Yom Chamishi, 18 Iyyar 5779
Lag B Omer Thursday, 23 May 2019
Parashat Vayetze 2012

Parashat Vayetze by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
23 November 2012

Jacob awoke from his sleep and said: "Surely the Eternal One is present in this place and I did not know it."· (Genesis 28:16)

How could he not have known it?· If Jacob's experiences were so profound and this certain place was so holy and so filled with the Divine presence, it seems amazing that Jacob did not feel something sooner.· What stopped him from sensing the Eternal One the previous evening?

I imagine that he was too busy.· He had to set up camp and secure the location and he was probably exhausted from a day of travelling.· Having traversed similar landscapes all day, he had no reason to suspect that there was anything outstanding about this one.

So often we can become desensitized to wonder by a saturation of the mundane.· Sometimes this means that we miss out on profound beauty that passes us by; sometimes this means that we forget to appreciate another's efforts that are swept up in the business of our days; and sometimes this means that we are so overwhelmed by the constant barrage of media spectacle that we do not think to seek out the small but remarkable stories beyond the headlines.

This week we have watched in horror as violence and suffering have escalated in the Middle East yet again.· It is tragic and upsetting; it is frustrating and draining.· It is also regrettably familiar and therefore not necessarily something that will make us sit up and take action or react as strongly as we would if this was the first time we had heard this story.

It was against this backdrop that I attended on Tuesday a Symposium for Jewish and Christian Faith Leaders on the Middle East Conflict.· Overwhelmed by the media, lacking much hope that such an event could achieve anything, I was certainly not feeling particularly receptive to any kind of inspiration.

And yet inspired I was.· By the idea that it is faulty narratives rather than violent hatred on both sides that preserves the conflict; by young Israeli and Palestinian activists who are part of a 600,000 strong grass roots movement to change these narratives; and by the Reverend Gary Mason MBE talking about the Northern Irish experience.

This spurred me to remember and be reminded of countless initiatives that exists in Israel and Palestine that work to bring people together, encourage dialogue, cooperation and peace activism.· They exist and they are inspiring and incredible but their voices are quiet and their media appeal is weak compared to bombs and rockets.

We are busy and we are exhausted and we are overwhelmed by bad news but we have to remember that sometimes all is not as it seems and it might take a little effort to see what is in front of us.

This week is still a terrible set back and the loss of life is tragic but there are amazing people doing amazing things every day and creating the reality they want to see in the world.· Let us hope that the world will soon wake up and say: "Surely there is peace in that place and we did not know it."