Time to create peace

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Timing is everything, so the signing of the interim Israeli-Palestinian peace accord at Rosh Hashanah 5756 gives Jews everywhere a springboard for reflecting on the future in these Days of Awe.

Just as we renew ourselves each year during the High Holy Days, Israel now faces the chance to reshape its emotional and physical landscape. Israel cannot afford to let this critical moment pass. That would be like the sin of avoiding an oppportunity to make tzedakah.

Of course, some Jews argue that Israel is slowly committing the sin of suicide by gradually withdrawing from the West Bank, and they consider the Rabin government traitorous for ceding to the Palestinians what many Jews view as holy land.

In fact, for two years most Israelis have been fighting twin reactions to the Palestinians — trust and suspicion — both for good reason. The prayers for peace that burst forth at the sight of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shaking hands in 1993 have been colored blood red with each successive Hamas murder.

Yet almost a quarter century after the Yom Kippur War, which Israel almost lost, the Rabin government is taking perhaps its biggest risk and longest leap of faith. The government trusts that increasing measures of Palestinian independence will convert the region's history of bloodshed into a future of coexistence.

That vision is built on more than hope — it is based on a complex, 400-page contract.

Retired Israeli air force Gen. Yoram Agmon, barnstorming in the Bay Area for that interim peace accord recently, said Israel will not retreat from the West Bank and will not help to create a Palestinian state in its midst.

In reality, Israel's army will still control most of the West Bank during the next five years, leaving the urban centers to the Palestinian Authority police, Agmon said. Israel also will draw a line "in the sand" over which no military forces will cross to the West Bank — the Jordan River.

A transformation of the peace process is taking place before us. It is moving from promises and contracts to concrete steps — just as we move from the commitments of the High Holy Days into the actions of the coming year.

So, like the pieces of bread we send upon the waters each year during tashlich to rid ourselves of sins, we are creating peace, buoyed by prayer, in this new year.