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A Reminder of Hope in the Valley of the Cross

Winter has begun in Israel, and I’m watching my beloved Valley of the Cross turn from summer brown to rainy-season green. The Valley of the Cross is so named because, according to Christian tradition, this is where the tree grew that was used to build the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The Valley houses an ancient monastery, two youth group headquarters, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), and the Israel Museum.

I know every corner of the area by heart, and have even been accused of posting more photos of the monastery on Facebook than photos of my own daughter.

Yet I can’t help it. I love every ancient olive tree. I love watching the fog roll in. I love it when the snow blankets the entire valley. I curiously follow the intrigues of the monks and nuns in the monastery (and yes, there are intrigues), and I throw open my windows when the kids at the youth group sing traditional Israeli songs on Friday afternoon.

But my favorite part of the view, without a doubt, is the rare occasion when a rainbow stretches across the Valley, and brings with it a feeling of hope.

Just a few weeks ago, we read the portion of the Torah that tells the story of Noah and the flood, and, of course, the rainbow. The Torah portion provides an effective reminder to us of the importance of forgiveness.

Once the flood waters receded, God said that while humanity was still deeply flawed, He promised never to destroy the earth again. He then established a rainbow as the sign of this covenant. The rainbow will forever appear in the clouds, when the sky is threatening, not when all is sunny and promising, to remind both God and humanity of the covenant.

We often think of the rainbow as God’s reminder to us of His forgiveness, but the text clearly states, “And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and between you. . .”(Genesis 9:15). The rainbow provides comfort for humanity, which must overcome the trauma of the flood in order to return to rebuild its faith in God. But the lesson here is that even God needs a reminder – a little post-it note – to remain understanding in the face of man’s often challenging and frustrating behavior.

I needed that reminder too, these past few weeks. These continue to be challenging and painful times, and the rainbow is a comforting token of hope that, no matter what challenges we face, we will always rebuild. Even in the darkest times, hope breaks through the clouds.

– Davida Kutscher lives in Jerusalem with her daughter (and dog) and works for the AJJDC.

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