About 9 years ago, my family and I had the privilege of visiting Tunisia on a Cruise. I remember the vibrancy of the colors, the kindness extended to us and the interesting conversations about being Jews in an Arab country. We visited a carpet weaver and all the women with ancient lines on their faces made a fuss over our 6 year old Noa, with her blond curls and cherry red lips. A carpet was too big to bring home, but I wanted some small memento, so I bought a flowered ceramic bowl.
Then, in December of 2010, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia, with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, and Tunisia became a beacon of hope and change even as the Arab world darkened with increasing terrorism and fratricide. It became my custom to put our ceramic bowl from Tunisia on our Seder table as a symbol of freedom and hope.
This week Tunisia and many innocent victims are the latest victims of ISIS terrorism. The attacks reveal fissures and schisms in the single "success story" of the Arab Spring. Progress is hindered there by any number of challenges, ranging from insurgency to a weak army. Now, even the shining example has been sullied.
Yet our Tunisian ceramic bowl will once again grace our Seder table. After all, Passover is our holiday of freedom and hope. My girlfriend, Rabbi Sharon Sobel, told me she was driving behind a car yesterday whose license plate read: NEVRGVEUP.
Never give up.
Even as we reel from the gruesome violence of ISIS.
Even as we worry about the possibility of peace in Israel.
Even as we struggle with domestic issues of poverty and apathy.
Never give up.
As the Talmud teaches: "As long as there is life, there is hope." (Jerusalem Talmud, Ber. 9:1)
And, as I've mentioned before, Hope is my middle name.