There is a parallel between Joseph’s life, the life of Nelson Mandela, and that of Bibi Netanyahu and Abu Mazen.
Nelson Mandela began his struggle as a revolutionary advocating violence against the injustice of apartheid. However, he emerged from prison not thirsty for revenge, but as a man of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. He said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Joseph too could have acted with vengeance against his brothers when they appeared before him, but he did not do so. Rather, he forgave them and said: “Ani Yosef achichem - I am your brother Joseph…do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me here; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:4-5)
Joseph’s and his brothers’ reconciliation was a turning point in Jewish history, for had he not turned from vengeance, not forgiven his brothers (implied by receiving them open-heartedly once Judah revealed that he did not intend to commit the same sin again by leaving Benjamin behind), and not saved his family from famine, the children of Israel would have perished.
A similar challenge confronts the Palestinians and Israelis. Will the two peoples’ representatives acknowledge the wrongs that each has committed against the other, forgive those wrongs and resolve to end this tragic and bloody conflict in a just and secure peace with two states for two peoples, or will they descend into more war, bloodshed and suffering?
Will Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas be like Joseph in Egypt and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, or will they join so many leaders before them who failed to effectively wage peace?
Joseph and Nelson Mandela demonstrate that a few inspired and courageous leaders can change history and be lights unto the nations.
I would love nothing more than for Bibi and Abu Mazen to become the next Nobel Peace Prize Winners, along with Secretary of State John Kerry.
May they do what must be done and then may we celebrate them for having done so.