Rachel M. Roth

Waging peace

Women who wage peace.  I learned about this remarkable grassroots organization of Israeli women from diverse backgrounds (Jewish, Arab, Druze and Bedouin for example), through my cousin who is now a hostage of Hamas. In fact, many of the civilians captured, murdered, tortured were known peace activists. One bravely reached across the dangerous divide to bring economic opportunity to Gaza, another wrote passionately on the interrelations of religion and politics among Israelis and Palestinians, working to change the narrative. The many babies and young children abducted were peace activists in their own right – in the way that only children can be – sowing joy and compassion in their every step.

It is not a coincidence that these are the people destroyed by Hamas. On a practical level, any cross-section of Israeli society would be filled with those dedicated to improving lives, to reaching across the divide, to peace. These are our values. We nurture them in this intractably hard and dusty place, we water them in our schools and our children and our communities. On an ideological or perhaps even spiritual level, these are the people that Evil most needs to eliminate in order to triumph.

We pray for peace. To be allowed to practice our traditions quietly in our homeland. I believe that our enemy is not the Palestinians; it is Hamas, radical Islam, and all of its defenders and apologists that stand in the way of two peoples finding their way to a peaceful co-existence. For these groups, the “peaceful” solution is the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from the Middle East. Is that peace?

Is the absence of conflict, peace?

Peaceful people were brutally attacked in their homes by an arm of ISIS — make no mistake, Hamas waved the ISIS flag on these attacks. Videos of their burned and beheaded bodies, of rape and torture, were streamed directly by the terrorists, ebullient in their success. Evil Incarnate. Just as shockingly, apologists are rushing to deny the authenticity of videos released by the terrorists themselves. They publish their aims publicly, they preach them openly in Arabic in the media. Should they succeed in their aims and murder or drive out every Jewish person; if they create an Islamic state which breeds hate, subjugates women, and tortures homosexuals, is that peace?

Just over the border, our grandmothers and sisters and brothers and children sit bound in dark tunnels, buried in the labyrinth that Hamas has built with water, money, and the protection of the UN systematically diverted from the Palestinian people. They are strategically embedded behind civilians, placed under sacred spaces of care (hospital, schools) and worship (mosques) to ensure that we cannot reach them without moving through a densely populated civilian area, without encountering resistance from these corners that we cannot attack.

This is precisely the intention, you know. To force Israel’s hand to war. To create images of Israeli violence on civilians, hospitals, mosques. It’s a trap.

If we go in to retrieve our family, we invite the condemnation of the world, and the discomfort of our own spirits which celebrate life and peace and abhor death and war. If we do not… never mind, they know we will. We cannot sit idly on the other side of a line and watch livestreams of our neighbors raping our children. A few of the hostages we have learned have been killed, and the families wept with relief since death is preferable to the alternative at the hands Hamas. If we warn civilians of an impending attack on Hamas infrastructure, we are condemned for forcing civilians from their home.

We look helplessly into each other’s eyes on the streets. We are in an impossible situation, forced to become that which is anathema to us. Our prayers are filled with peace. But not a false peace – one where conflict is absent because all struggle against evil has ceased. Not peace at any cost.

What does it mean to wage peace?

I believe that the intent and the manner of war matters. As we enter this conflict with Evil Incarnate, which is embedded among people for whom we have compassion, under the intense gaze of a world which is deluged by disinformation and divided in their opinion of whether we have a right to exist, we must outline our responsibilities.

  1. We must defend ourselves. As a people indigenous to this land, we have a right to live peacefully in our homeland and must protect it. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me.”
  2. We must retain our humanity. War is dehumanizing. This is the goal of ISIS, of Hamas. Our goal is to restore a lasting peaceful coexistence for all people in Israel. “If I am only for myself what am I.”
  3. We must protect and restore those who will work for peace. By decisively eliminating the violent Hamas repression of those Palestinians who I pray would accept coexistence with Israel and become partners in peace. And by rescuing the hostages and children held by Hamas. “If not now, when.”
About the Author
Dr Roth is a US-trained family physician with specialties in mental and global health. She made aliyah ten years ago, and lives in the north with her husband and four young children. Dr Roth currently practices in mental health both in Israel and to the US via telemedicine.
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