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by Sherri Mandell

Condoleezza Rice is here at the start of another round of hopeful peace negotiations. I hope that she has read her Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson knew about hope. "Hope," she wrote, "is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all."

The desire for hope is eternal, ubiquitous, unending. It defines being human. It is our wish that each day we will learn more, love more, enjoy more, grow more, give more, and grow wiser in understanding.

That is why the atmosphere in this country is so improbably hopeful as if – after four years of being terrorized in our homes and cafes, on our buses, in our malls – the conflict and pain can magically be erased.

The Palestinians say they will announce a hudna. They say that they will "behave" if we behave. We blithely play along with the peace performance, hoping this time the play will have a happy ending because one of the characters has changed. The lead has died and now we have a new actor, one more capable of fulfilling his role.

So the crowd claps from the theater. We are so hopeful.

The script says that the Palestinians terrorized us for four years because they wanted land. And so if they get land, they will be happy and stop terror. The audience believes this. But the assumption behind the claim is this: If terror is useful, it is permitted.

This is a dangerous claim, one that smashes hope in its tracks. My 13-year-old son, Koby, was smashed to death with rocks by Palestinian terrorists who had no motivation other than hate, and that hate was so deeply planted in these savages that they beat my son and his friend, Yosef Ish Ran, face to face.

Many people in the international community audience excused the terrorists – they had no hope, we were told. They were in despair.

Abu Mazen has changed the tune of the negotiations by saying that terror is useless, meaning it doesn't work as political strategy. Yet here we are the brink of negotiations, so why say that terror does not pay? It does. Look at the handout Uncle Sam is poised to give the Palestinians.

The new Palestinian leader has not yet said that terror is wrong, morally repugnant, unspeakably wrong. He has not said that despair is not what creates terror but hate – hatred taught in Palestinian schools, transmitted on the airwaves, preached in the mosques, and countenanced and promoted by the Palestinian leadership. He insists that terror stop because it is inexpedient.

Sometimes hope is ignorant and injurious. Hope doesn't teach us. It doesn't demand from us. It doesn't demand change. It doesn't demand accountability. It just gives us the power to continue in the same cycle of denial.

Emily Dickinson ends her poem about hope thus:

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

Hope can be a dumb accomplice, a bad friend. If we refuse to listen, to learn, from our experience, if we deny what we have endured, then there is no hope.

I will have hope when I hear the Palestinians say that it is wrong to murder Jews in cold blood, no matter how successful terror has been for them. I will have hope when the words of this performance truly change, not just the tune.

The writer's book, The Blessing of a Broken Heart, won the 2004 National Jewish Book Award. She is cofounder of the Koby Mandell Foundation (kobymandell.org).

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