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by Daryl Temkin


Jews have an overwhelming yearning for peace - - or anything that sounds remotely like it. It is a deep part of our tradition, our ethics, our religious texts, our prayers, our rituals, our up-bringing and our peoplehood. It is almost like an addictive disorder of ours. We will do almost anything for peace.

In my psychology practice, I met an alcoholic who swore to his wife that he would stop drinking. All the alcohol had been removed from the home and he was under strict surveillance to make sure that he would not be around any liquor. One day, he and his wife drove to the shopping center, and she went into a store for a few moments leaving her husband unsupervised but in the car. A few minutes later, she came back and found her husband in a drunken stupor. How did that happen? It was then discovered that the husband had replaced the car's window washer fluid with liquor and ran the washer spray hose into the glove compartment where it functioned like a soda fountain straw.

Almost anything will be done to support an addiction -- even time honored values will be compromised if not entirely dropped in order to serve the addiction.

As a Jewish nation, we run towards peace, yearn for peace and we are typically willing to compromise to the very last line in order to establish peace. These values about peace are some of the core values which have distinguished the Jewish nation from the other nations. Although these peace- seeking values are most meaningful and beautiful, they must be observed with wisdom, not carelessness, and not as a compromising addiction.

In today's world, as odd as this may sound, a type of confusion has arisen around the word "peace". The meaning of peace has been reshaped and again reshaped into a form which is not so recognizable. This confusion has led to the development of a view of peace which can best be described as a "false peace". Yearning and pursuing peace which in reality is a false peace becomes a very suspect activity. Accepting a false peace is actually an abomination in the minds of those who still understand and demand standards for peace and refuse to be swayed by the contemporary trend of "peace reshaping".

False peace is something which sounds like peace and may even contain traces which look like peace, but in reality has nothing to do with peace except that it is a deception. It is "peace" for show and not peace for real. The Nobel Peace Prize given to Yassir Arafat, known as the "father of modern day terrorism", was one of the leading examples of the deterioration of the dream for peace turned into peace for show.

Not so many years ago, a new phrase entered the English language, "knock off". A knock off is a fake representation of something of significant quality and value. On the street corners of New York, a "knock off" of a Rolex watch is available for as little as $10 dollars. The untrained eye sees the look-alike watch encasements and the name Rolex and believes it is a Rolex. Even if the watch keeps correct time for a number of days, it's still not a Rolex, for soon the truth appears and not only is the time off, even the "gold" rubs off.

Initially, the fake Rolex looked good and passed for being the real thing to all susceptible eyes. But in reality, a fake $10 dollar Rolex is a machine stamped time mechanism, lacking any real craftsmanship. Whereas a real Rolex, known for it's $10,000 and above price tag, is a relatively rare, artistically hand crafted masterpiece which comes from generations of the finest critically and meticulously trained legendary watchmakers, and contains a precision engineered time mechanism which only the Rolex name can produce. On a real Rolex, the time is forever precise and the gold doesn't rub off.

Peace needs to be real. It is a very valuable commodity and only comes by fine hand crafting and endless hours of devoted efforts. Simple make believe peace "knock offs" can't become acceptable replacements for something which is so precious, delicate, and pivotal.

But, if you can get away with a "knock off", why not just go with the knock off? The interest and ability to admire, appreciate, and respect carefully thought out and refined creations that deserve the title of "masterpiece" has experienced a significant degree of erosion in our current society. May it be in music, arts, science, or leadership, people who strive with integrity to produce works of greatness are a rare find. Perhaps we have gotten used to a lower standard of performance. Just as so many schools and teachers are under pressure to pass and matriculate sub-standard students, there is an overall "dumbing down" process. This leads to the acceptance of lower standards where knock offs of even significant items and issues become passable.

We are now dealing with the "dumbing down of peace". That's were peace no longer has to pass or live up to the once expected rigorous standards. The "dumbed down" version of peace is just a street corner knock off. It's not really meant to work or to last, it's just meant to look good, sound good, and perhaps get someone elected to a political office or to promote someone to win a coveted award.

As if peace was like a Jackie Mason styled comic routine, ordering a restaurant bowl of soup. The waiter makes the mistake of asking how's the soup? Do you really want to know? Well its not so good, it's not like I've had in the past, but it is what it is. First off, it's cold, it has almost no taste, there's no salt on the table, and I ordered a bean soup, do you see any beans? No just colored water and your soup spoon is smaller than my teaspoon, but I have no complaints, I know this isn't real soup, I just have to take what I can get.

Watering down peace leads to accepting a false peace -- accepting a "knock off". Running after a false peace because it is all there is, or it is all that is being offered, cannot become the acceptable standard. Pursuing false peace may look good on the surface but it is unethical and immoral and is a sacrilege.

The Jewish yearnings for peace and the desire to pursue peace at all costs are without question the highest personal as well as religious goals that exist. It is an endeavor from which we must never desist as long as we have the chance to live upon this planet. But that is the operative word, "live".

Peace is not about compromising "life". Peace is a pursuit and not an addiction which requires the sacrifice of reason and responsibility.

If there was not an enemy who was so bent on our total destruction, giving everything possible to have peace would be our greatest desire. But our present conflict is of a different nature. The playing field for peace-building is not level but stands upon numerous hidden tunnels filled with explosives, and in today's scenario, that is not a metaphor.

When it comes to building peace with an enemy who has been indoctrinated from birth to envision and desire your total destruction, one can't accept an eroded version of peace let alone any type of a "knock off" of peace. One does not have the option of saying, "That's all there is and that's all that is going to be, so accept what you are being offered and be satisfied." No, peace is a value to be yearned for and not with a compromised meaning.

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D. is the director of the Israel Education Institute which is devoted to teaching history and contemporary issues of Israel to Jews and Non-Jews. Contact him at


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