Letter From The IofCI President On The Palestine-Israel Situation
My dear friends,
I feel it is important that we reach out to each other at this terrible time of conflict in the middle east. Last night, I was deeply moved listening to Michal Halev, a grieving mother, who was interviewed on BBC Newsnight. Her only child, Laor, was abducted by Hamas at the music festival last week and then she discovered that he had been killed. In her grief she made this appeal:
'My child was murdered by these monsters but still I want no vengeance in my name. I am begging the world, don't go into war. Go and help these people. I feel that these children …who are growing up now are educated to be haters. All I ask is that they be taught how to love and heal their wounds and stop this anger and stop this hate. War is not the answer. War is not the solution. We have to find a way to teach the children to love. To teach the young children of haters to be lovers. We have to bring in more mothers and healers instead of more missiles and soldiers. The answer to horror can't be more horror.' Then she wept and said, 'I am speaking as a mother not a politician. Bring mothers, grandmothers, healers and teach people how to love. That is all I am asking.'
We grieve with the families in southern Israel who suffered horrific violence at the hands of Hamas. We grieve with the hundreds of thousands of families in Gaza who will bear the wrath of the 18th most powerful army in the world assisted by other, even stronger, forces. As one writer stated in the Guardian this weekend, the angel of death is presently 'licking its lips.'
We, in Initiatives of Change (IofC), have experienced first-hand, for almost 100 years, the struggles of people in conflict in many parts of the world. For example, we were there helping in the healing process of the peoples of Europe after World War II, working to transform bitter enemies into friends We were present in Northern Ireland during 'the Troubles'; in the United States we helped to reconcile black and white communities through our 'Hope in the Cities' programme; and in South Africa, during the apartheid regime, we helped a minority white population to understand the plight of the majority black population they had oppressed and fenced off for 50 years.
We, as the IofC, witnessed at close quarters the lessons of history: that violence never produces the results we desire. We have seen the futility of trying to solve political problems through arms and war. We know that 'violence begets violence.' As the Jewish Bible says, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes and their children's teeth are set on edge.'
The governments now rushing to take sides in this conflict have missed countless opportunities to find a way for Israelis and Palestinians, who call the same region their home, to embark on a path of peaceful co-existence. They have failed us.
The Jewish people have long suffered. Western history is plagued by insidious and violent forms of antisemitism. This and the constant threat of pogroms gave rise to the need for a safe haven for Jews, but this cannot be achieved by fencing off people whose lives have become so hopeless that death is an escape, or by turning millions into refugees from the land of their birth.
We, in the IofC, know well the hard struggle to achieve reconciliation when the path to peace is blocked by the bitter memories of violence that make forgiveness so difficult. As 'honest brokers' building trust between enemies and 'bridges' across the world's divides, we understand the truth of Gandhi's words that 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.'
Our movement was founded on waiting on God's guidance and being faithful to our mission even when the answers seem remote, and the problem seems overwhelming. It, therefore, behoves us now to cling to our guiding principle of 'absolute love.'
Amid all the news reporting, political debates, analyses, the sirens, and loud noises of war, I heard the still, small voice of God in the words of a grieving mother 'The answer to horror can't be more horror … Teach people how to love.