Hope has the power to transform lives and shape societies. It is a reminder that, even in our darkest moments, there is a spark that can guide us toward a brighter future. Hope is not a luxury. It is core to the human spirit, capable of turning despair into action and momentum into world-changing milestones.
Viktor Frankl, a renowned psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and author, draws from experiences in Nazi concentration camps to develop a profound understanding of the importance of hope called logotherapy. This psychotherapeutic approach describes the search for a life’s meaning as the central human motivational force. Frankel observed that people in Nazi extermination camps who found a shred of hope, even in the bleakest circumstances, were more likely to endure and survive.
Frankl later wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
News reports of the Hamas attacks on Israel cover the unconscionable devastation of Israeli villages along the Southern border. An inhumane action directly almost entirely toward civilians, documented and shared on social media by terrorists not “caught in the act” but proudly sharing visuals online of their murder spree. The media focuses primarily on geopolitical chaos and military response. The human stories center around families searching for information about loved ones missing or the more than 100 civilians taken hostage to hostile territory – their destiny unknown.
The Biblical reading for Simchat Torah, the holiday marking the annual cycle of the conclusion of Torah readings, with which Hamas timed its well-coordinated attack, ends with a prophetic call from the Book of Joshua: “Only be strong and resolute!”
The bigger story is to explore Israeli’s unwavering resilience in the face of so much horror. Israel is built on “hope,” nurtured by hope, and resilient because hope is embedded in the people’s mental health psyche. Once the anguish and outrage are expressed, its citizens will turn to what they do best – rebuilding. What of their neighbors? Will this successful blood-letting act be a catalyst for nation-building inspiration?
The Psychological Benefits of Hope
Psychologists have long recognized the vital role hope plays in people’s resilience. American psychologist Professor Charles Snyder defined hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed energy) and pathways (planning to meet goals).” Snyder’s definition highlights the two critical components of hope: agency and pathways.
Agency is the belief that someone can initiate actions and make a difference. In desperate situations, this belief can be a lifeline. It fuels determination and empowers individuals to take control of their situation, no matter how hopeless and disappointing.
Pathways represent strategies and plans that can be developed to achieve those goals. Hope provides the internal flame framework for problem-solving and finding a way out of dire situations. Researchers emphasize that hope is intricately linked to a person’s problem-solving abilities, making it an essential psychological – even people-building – resource.
When Hate Defines Purpose
Hope is not just an abstract concept; it can be nurtured and cultivated. This is one of Israel’s and its people’s most significant resources – not oil, diamonds, or other precious natural resources. Hope is a national treasure that can be mined and replenished. It is the micro-processor of the “Start-Up Nation” credited with countless innovations that are used in medicine, technology and auto GPS systems.
Right now, Israel must secure its borders and prevent nearby nations from taking advantage of the current instability. That “hopefully” is in its neighbors – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia’s – best geopolitical interests. Then, it must address painful steps to determine how low-tech terrorist planning overwhelmed the hi-tech intelligence system of one of the world’s greatest innovation engines. But those steps will not deter the nation’s simultaneous focus on healing and hope.
This national soul-searching is another painful chapter in the bigger saga – how will this mega terrorist war-level attack change its approach to the relationship with the Palestinians and influence Palestinian’s strategy to build a nation not based on hate? Historically, Hamas celebratory events have not been rooted in establishing statehood-level institutions in Gaza that support culture, education, finance, health, and infrastructure.
No one can account for the billions in regional and global aid directed to Hamas for infrastructure and refugee support. Where has it been spent? For tunnels or teachers? For medical supplies or missiles? Just the aid provided by Saudi Arabia alone to the Palestinian people during the last 17 years exceeded $6 billion. That does not include other United Nations members and institutions. But where is the ROI for these billions, and how does that massive investment kindle hope on the part of the Palestinian people when the fruits of the spending are invisible to the people?
As we’ve seen in the media during the past few days, Hamas invested mightily in this attack against Israel. An attack that is certain to be answered with a military response further setting back Palestinian citizens trapped in this hostile maze. Finding hope through the possibilities of peace is almost impossible when encouraged public expression for success is in killing “the other.”
Hope is a Catalyst
Hope empowers individuals and acts as a catalyst for positive societal change. When people collectively hold onto hope for a better future, they mobilize their efforts to bring about that change: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had “a dream” driven by the hope for racial equality and justice. This hope – still burning in a nation’s heart – galvanizes millions of people to take action and continues to lead urgent changes.
The global response to climate change is fueled by hope for a sustainable and healthy planet. Swedish environmental and climate activist Greta Thunberg embodies the transformative power of hope. Her unwavering belief that change is possible has inspired millions of young people worldwide to demand action from their governments and advocate for a greener future. Her hope drives her to eyeball global leaders and demand urgent action.
Thunberg scolded the world’s leaders in her speech at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit by exclaiming, “How dare you” about their perceived indifference and inaction to the climate crisis. Her actions are a catalyst for young people worldwide to step forward and work toward a sustainable planet.
Israel and Palestine – Hope and Hate
What has happened during the past few days in Israel – brutal attacks against women, children, and aged citizens- is horrifying. The visuals – well documented by the terrorists themselves and proudly shared – reinforce the energy that drives Hamas – a thirst for Jewish blood that seems impossible to quench.
But what of the Palestinian people? Is that their destiny? Their national desire? To endure endless retaliations that rekindle hate? To change their future, they must find – or demand – capable, trustworthy leaders who inspire nation-building hope and abandon hatred as a preferred political path! As Professor Snyder suggested, they must have people at the helm who offer agency and a pathway – a goal–oriented agency matched by plans to achieve that goal.
And of Israel? For the rest of their lives, like countless generations, the memories of loved ones slaughtered helplessly will haunt family, friends, and the nation. But that tormented energy and “how and why” questions will elevate the country toward agency and a pathway, as Snyder suggested: “Now what and to where?”
Golda Meir, the Israeli Prime Minister, who shepherded a wounded nation through the surprise Yom Kippur War – another incredibly devastating, unexpected war that started 50 years almost to the day of this October 2023 Hamas attack – offered insight paralleling Professor Snyder’s insight. “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Hate is a disease that must be overcome emotionally.
For all its generational waves of suffering, the Jewish people and the nation of Israel continue to draw upon the endless resource that will guide its collective next steps – faith and purpose standing on a foundation of enduring hope. That is the inspiring story of a people – as the Biblical Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, as “A light unto the nations” – with renewable positive energy to sustain itself and contribute to the world.