In the memorable words of the group REM, “Everybody hurts sometime.” But the how long that hurt perdures is entirely a matter of choice. Some will, unable to move forward, nurse their grievances. Others may be willing to forgive though unable to forget. But there are cases when time alone is what is required for some measure of healing.
Since 1938 when Israel was still Palestine, musicians and music directors, with rare exception, have refused to play Richard Wagner’s music, partly because of his own outspoken anti-Semitic views and partly because he was Hitler’s favourite composer. It simply was too painful for survivors and their families and the government that served them to be entertained by the music that often accompanied many of the victims of the Sho’ah to their deaths. (There was an orchestra at Auschwitz that played while selections were made.) Previous attempts to play Wagner resulted in both musicians as well as audience members walking out on performances.
Yet on July 26, 2011, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Roberto Paternoso, played a selection of Wagner at the Bayreuth, Germany music festival. Paternoso’s mother and other relatives were Holocaust survivors. While the actual performance is not in Israel, it is a watershed moment. It marks the fact that without any public lobbying, massive education, or legislation Israelis have come to the conclusion to let go of their hurt and anger. It took 73 years to get to this point.
Whether one agrees with the decision or not, it demonstrates that time alone can sometimes settle old grievances. With this in mind, there is hope for eventual peace in the Middle East. If the victims of the Sho’ah can make peace with Wagner, then there is reason to believe that Palestinians and their allies in the Arab countries and beyond can make peace with Israel. And there is hope for each of us. No matter how profoundly we have been emotionally wounded, a time can come when those feelings of anger and resentment dissipate to the point that we can subdue them and transcend them.
Of course there is no guarantee that this will be the case. And there is no specific time that must pass before it may be the case. But it is good to know that it can be the case. The Book of Job (11:18) is right: “There is hope.”