One year ago I celebrated my 50th birthday with the launch of a new Gaza Fund at Dalia Association. At the time I wrote that we should strengthen local leaders and local organizations before bad things happen. I suggested that we not only give money, time and raise our voices during wars, but that we take advantage of the periods of calm to invest, work preventively, focus on the long-term.
Of course I didn’t know that just a few months later Gaza would succumb to a terrible war, nor did I know that 8 months later things would be even worse. I didn’t know then that I would be compelled to put aside my novel to work on a new initiative – Aid Watch Palestine – to bring people together to re-envision aid so that it’s accountable to Palestinians and actually helps people.
Now, on the cusp of turning 51, my “profound” words are spoken out and my energy has dispersed. I work day and night to try to make a difference, but without much hope that I can. All around me are friends who are severely depressed, and with good reason.
So what do I want for my 51st birthday? I’m not going to say “peace on earth” or even “an end to the blockade on Gaza.” I’m going to ask for something every personal: I want to learn to find beauty in this ugly world and to find hope against all the evidence that there is none. But lest you say my wish is selfish, I wish this for us all. I wish for humanity to rise to our best selves. That would be a truly happy birthday.