Let us be candid. We live in a world where the impassioned writings of Jewish writers and philosophers ring truer than the ethereal dialogues of Plato. This is a world in which unreason trumps rationality and where survival is routinely dependent upon accepting what is evidently absurd. No change of power in Washington or Jerusalem can ever change any of this.
Sisyphus fully understood that his rock would never stay put at the summit of the mountain. He labored nonetheless. He did not surrender.
Like Sisyphus, Israel must finally learn to understand that its own “rock,” the agonizingly heavy stone of national security and international normalcy, may never stay put at the summit. Yet still it must struggle to push upward. It must continue to labor against the ponderous weight, if for no other reason than simply to continue.
For Israel, true heroism, and perhaps even true fulfillment of its unique mission among the nations, lies in recognizing something beyond all normal understanding: Endless pain and insecurity are not necessarily unbearable, and must sometimes be borne with faith and equanimity. Failing such a tragic awareness, the government of Israel will continue to grasp at illusory peace prospects, and thus to usher in repeatedly false dawns.
Israel is not Sisyphus, nor is there any reason to believe Israel must necessarily endure without experiencing personal and collective satisfactions. Ever aware that its titanic struggle toward recurring summits may lack even a definable moment of “success” – that these summits may never be truly scaled – the Jewish state can still learn that the struggle itself may carry incomparable benefits. Even a seemingly absurd struggle can have its notable accomplishments, its unheralded blessings, and its more or less palpable rewards.
Newly tolerant of an almost intolerable ambiguity, and consciously surviving without any “normal” hopes of completion and clarity, the people of Israel could potentially achieve both spiritual and survival benefits in their personal and collective lives. Importantly, their now enlarged lucidity could immunize them from the demeaning, and possibly lethal, lures of more “ordinary” nations.
Israel’s understandable but fevered search for a solution has led it down a path of despair, and perhaps even toward a genuine “sickness unto death.” For Israel, all basic truth must ultimately emerge from paradox.
In the end, to survive into the future, Israel’s only real choice will be to keep rolling the rock upward.
Unlike Sisyphus, Israel and its people can still enjoy great achievements and satisfactions along the way. But, like Sisyphus, all of Israel must ultimately recognize that its individual and collective life may require an authentically tragic and unending struggle.
For Israel, there is a hidden but sincere consolation in all of this. True tragedy does not denigrate. It exalts.