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Empowering the Wisdom of Our Humanity




Please read this remarkable story from an Israeli mother whose daughter did not die in vain, whose voice of Wisdom calls out with powerfully focused intention, directly to the core of our hearts. When you're done, I'll share what it means to me. -- Tom Atlee



Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2001
Subject: Israeli Bereaved Mother's Universal Plea

This was sent by the minister of St. Andrew's, Jerusalem. It was told by a Jewish woman, one whose daughter had been killed in a suicide bombing, at a meeting in which a Palestinian mother also shared her story.

By Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Thank you for inviting me to share with you the struggle for peace in my country. I say My country but I don't even know if this term is correct anymore. What exactly is mine in this country depends very much on what I identify with, and today it is a very difficult for me to answer that, for it is very hard to identify with anything in a place that has let Death have dominion over it. And in the place that I come from, Death has dominion. And it is Death that has created a new identity for me and has given me a new voice, a new voice that is as ancient as the world itself the voice of our biblical mother Rachel, weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for they are not. This new identity and this new voice transcend nationalities and religions and even time and overshadows all other identities and is deafening all the other voices I have been given by life.

My little girl was killed just because she was born Israeli, by a young man who felt hopeless to the point of murder and suicide just because he was born a Palestinian.

After her death a reporter asked me how I can accept condolences from the other side. I said to her very spontaneously, that I do not accept condolences from the other side. And when the mayor of Jerusalem came to offer his condolences, I went to my room because I didn't want to speak to him or shake his hand. Because for me, the other side is not the Palestinians, and I believe that dividing the population into two enemy sides, Palestinians and Israelis, is a wrong and a murderous division. For me the whole population of the area, and of the world has always been divided into two other distinct groups: peace lovers and war lovers.

But today I know that there is yet another division in Israel: On the face of the earth there rules the kingdom of evil, where for the last 34 years, people who call themselves leaders have earned, through democratic means, the right to kill and destroy and be as vile and corrupt as they please, to have young boys become expert killers, whether in the name of God, of the good of the nation, or in the name of honour and of courage. But these evil people have created yet another kingdom, a glorious kingdom that flourishes and grows larger and larger every day - a kingdom that lives and breathes under our feet, under the earth we walk on. There is where my little daughter dwells, side by side with Palestinian children, and where I dwell side by side with Palestinian parents who, for the most part, have never held a gun and have never obeyed orders to kill anyone. There she dwells, alongside her murderer, whose blood is mingled with hers on the stones of Jerusalem that have long grown indifferent to human blood. There they lie, both of them, deceived.

He is deceived, because his act of murder and suicide did not change anything, did not end the Israeli cruel occupation, did not bring him to heaven, and the people who promised him that his act would be meaningful carry on as if he had never existed. My little girl is deceived because she believed that her life was safe, that her parents and her country were protecting her from evil and that no harm can come to little girls who are good and gentle, and go through the streets of their own cities, to a dance class.

And they are both deceived because the world is going on living as if their blood has never been shed. Both of them are the victims of their so-called leaders. And those so-called leaders keep on enjoying playing their murderous games, using our children as their puppets, and our grief as an incentive to go on with their vindictive tricks. For them children are abstract entities, numbers and grief is a political tool. They know that all they have to do in order to draw more and more young and enthusiastic little soldiers into their units is to find a God that would ordain this killing. And each of them finds Him in their own bible, in their own mythologies. They commit their crimes in the name of the Jewish God and in the name of the Muslim God, while in Ireland and in Eastern Europe people kill each other for different versions of their Christian God. And now the enlightened leaders of the west kill in the name of the God of Freedom. But in fact they all recruit man-made gods to their sides - the God of racism and the God of greed and megalomania.

This is not new in the history of man. People have always used God as an excuse for their crimes. Our children, from a very tender age learn about Joshua, the glorified leader who murdered the whole population of Jericho in the name of God. Then they learn about the prophet Eliyahu who killed the 450 priests of the Baal because they practised a different religion and then they learn about Eliyahu's disciple, Elisha, who brought death, with the help of God, upon 42 children who mocked him by calling him bald. Not to mention the adored king David and his terrible deeds. In our culture that allows killing as a means of solving social and religious problems, and where people identify themselves with biblical heroes and see themselves as their descendants, all these stories are glorified and overshadow the story about the God who said "Lay not thy hand upon the child".

But children can also learn about the God who said "I will have mercy upon her who have not obtained mercy and I will say to them who were not my people 'Thou art my people'". I believe very strongly that only by educating our children that killing the innocent, starving the innocent, humiliating the innocent are unforgivable crimes, can we save them from joining the evil forces that are luring them into their lines. The evil forces of Israel and the evil forces of the Palestinians. The only difference is that Israel through long and cruel occupation, is making it very easy for young Palestinians to turn to the way of terrorism. But terrorism dominates both forces. An organised army, which terrorises a whole population, is no less and even more criminal than any guerrilla group. An enlightened first world government which ordains the killing of the innocent is just as evil as any third world guerrilla leader who is hardly known and never seen.

There is no enlightened killing and barbaric killing, there is only criminal killing. For me Sadam Hussein and Ariel Sharon and George Bush, father and son, are all the same, for they have all inflicted pain and death upon innocent populations. If we don't tell our children these are unscrupulous murderers, we shall never have people who rule out killing from the outset as a solution to social and political problems.

Today, when there is no opposition in Israel, there is no more meaning to left or right for they all give their consent to the atrocities that go on in this country. Therefore I believe that the European condemnation of those deeds and of their doers is highly important. It is time to tell the world that words like heroism, courage, and manhood can kill and that the death of one child, any child, be it a Serbian or an Albanian an Iraqi or a Jewish child is the death of the whole world, its past and its future. That there is no vengeance for the death of a child because after the death of a child there is no other death - for there is no more life. And where there is no more life there are no more words left to love or hate with, and the only sound that reverberates in this arena of death is the helpless cry of dying children and of bereaved mothers.

This is the cry that has never, never been heard by politicians and generals, especially not in Jerusalem that everybody thinks is made of gold but that is really made of stones and iron and lead. It is time this cry is heard above all others, for this is the only voice that remains after the violence, and that really understands the meaning of the end of all things, including wars. This is the voice that understands what today is understood only in the underground kingdom of our murdered children, namely that all bloods are equal and that it takes so little to kill a child and so much to keep her alive. It understands that ending the war means to adopt a dialogic approach to negotiation and not a smart dealer approach, to understand that people should talk not in order to bring the others to their knees and win the argument but in order to come to terms. Ending the war means that I don't care what flag is put on which mountain, it means that I don't care who looks where when they pray, it means that nothing is more important than to secure a little girl's way to her dance class.

I would like to call all the parents who have not yet lost their children, and all those who are about to, if we don't stand up to the politicians by teaching our children not to follow their murderous ways, if we don't listen to the voice of peace coming from underneath, very soon there will be nothing left to say, nothing left to write or read or listen to except for the perpetual cry of mourning. Please, save the children.




And I pause.

And then I say that this story is an example of the wisdom at the heart of humanity. It is natural that it's call moves us.

And then I suggest that we need to empower such wisdom to surface into public consciousness and shape public policy -- over and over again -- if we are to make it, as humanity, through the next century.

I believe an effective way to do that is through establishing and empowering citizen deliberative councils (see A Call to Move Beyond Public Opinion to Public Judgment). That's why I keep talking about them. Why? Because evidence strongly suggests that real dialogue among diverse ordinary citizens will dependably bring to the surface wisdom such as this. AS LONG AS PEOPLE ARE FULLY HEARD, then the challenges of life -- particularly in times of crisis -- will call forth their deep humanity and the wisdom that lies there. We need to be able to tap that wisdom -- and collectively distill it through our political and governmental institutions -- so it can effectively serve the common good. Over and over.

Without such councils, the voices of wisdom speaking so passionately in stories like this that swirl through the minds and conversations at the grassroots -- and, occasionally, in letters to the editor, speeches and demonstrations -- are simply ignored by the powers that be. Or, when it suits their purposes, high officials and partisans know how to co-opt such deeply human passion to manipulate the fears and longings of entire populations. We are seeing that now, all around us.

We don't need that.

We need this voice.

And we need it so powerful that it can heal and transform the world, over and over and over.

This mother, Dr. Peled-Elhanan, tells us "people who call themselves leaders have earned, through democratic means, the right to kill and destroy and be as vile and corrupt as they please." No more.