I don’t understand.


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I don’t understand.

Every day I tell little children, “It doesn’t matter who started the fight.  You both have to stop.”

Every school year, I help very young children to manage conflict. I work so very hard to show them that we are all part of one community.  That our differences are so much less important than our similarities.  I spend hours and hours helping young children to learn that might does not make right; that even if you are hit, it does not make it right for you to hit back.

I don’t understand.

Why don’t adults understand these basic lessons?

More specifically, why don’t the men who control the armies understand these basic lessons?

Dead Israeli babies are not brought back to life by dead Palestinian babies.  Dead Palestinian Grandmothers are not avenged with the deaths of Israeli Grandmothers. Burned out Jewish villages are not more valuable than burned out Moslem villages. Terrified, cowering Moslem families do not feel safer knowing that there are terrified, cowering Jewish families across the border.

I have been observing and mourning this conflict since 1973, when I participated in a foreign exchange program that sent me to Tunisia, to live with a Moslem family.  I knew nothing about Islam, I knew nothing about North Africa, I knew nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict.  I was a teenager who was on her first adventure.

But while I lived with a wonderful, loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent Islamic family, I learned a great deal about the struggles between the two cultures.

Years later, I took a job as an interpreter for Jewish Family Services, working to resettle Russian Jews into the Boston area. And while I worked with many wonderful, loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent Jewish families, I learned a great deal about the struggles between the two cultures.

I cannot pick a side in this terrible, pointless, tragic war.  I cannot engage in the argument of who started it, or who is retaliating for what.

I am so sad and so frustrated as I watch the bombs arc back and forth, murdering children in their beds.

If I ruled the world, Mothers would be put in charge of every military power on earth. Mothers would serve dinner, kiss their babies goodnight, and then turn to the fights over land and water and oil and power and trade.

I don’t think that other Mothers understand this madness either.

17 thoughts on “I don’t understand.

  1. I suppose we are slowly evolving in our human drive to clash with humans who are not part of our group, very slowly. Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book sums it up very well. There is no sense to be made sometimes. We can only wait to know grace.

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    • Yes, a beautiful book! I guess there are just certain times when I truly am overwhelmed by the sheer stupidity of the human race; this is one such time. If Israel would just give Palestine a place to live, we would have peace! And if Palestine would just allow Israel to exist with no conflict, we would have peace. How many generations of “he started it” do we have to have before there are popular uprisings against the men who control the damn bombs?

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      • Our problem, I think, is that we are expecting others to think and do what makes sense. My husband often says to me, “Stop trying to make sense of it.” I understand what he means. Still, to see such suffering breaks my little human heart.

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  2. ah, but if we accept it, if we stop making sense of it, then we are condoning it. We have to speak up. Those of us who retain a moral compass must speak up and speak out.

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  3. “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” And in a man’s world challenging violence with non-violence is always seen as a weak and wimpish response and many times even cowardly. All men learn and know this to be true despite what we are told in school because while we are being taught that fighting is wrong in school, grown men are engaged in wars and preparing to send us to them as soon as we are old enough. (and most haven’t the courage to behave otherwise especially in front of their girlfriends, wives and mothers) and that is why just about all men are incompetent. You are right. Mothers should be put in charge. If only we’d made god a mother and not a father then perhaps the holy land wouldn’t be full of so many holes.

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  4. What do you mean “It doesn’t matter who started the fight”? What kind of lesson is it for children – that even if you’re the one assaulting another human, there’s no reprisal? How that rhymes with the legal system, in which legitimate self-defence is recognized and attackers are convicted? I hope the teachers of my children will have different values – and will do my best to teach them that its OK to fight back when facing agression.

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    • Michael, with all due respect, that is exactly the attitude that has brought us to a place where violence is endemic. That attitude is exactly why the middle east continues to bury its children after 60 years of continued “reprisals”.
      I’m sad for you.

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      • I disagree. I think that it matters a lot who started the fight and if you don’t spend effort trying to find the causes, that’s when you end up with a cycle of violence – because the root causes are brushed away with a simplistic “it doesn’t matter, both have to stop”.

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      • I do understand what you mean, Michael, and appreciate you taking the time to express it. Its all far more complicated than I made it, I realize. But I guess the idea is this:
        If someone hurts you in school, you should ask for adult help; those adults need to hold the first offender accountable. If you hit back, then you are both in the wrong.
        If someone hurts you in society, commits a violent crime against you, you need to go to the police. You aren’t allowed to kill your child’s killer. Then we have social chaos.
        In international relations, the theory is that in a modern world, if one country strikes against another, there are (theoretically) international laws and agency to intervene. Simply lobbing bombs back and forth for SIXTY PLUS YEARS is insanity.
        In the case of Israel/Palestine, the idea of “who started it” has gone on for nearly a century; we are far past asking “who started it.”
        Hanging onto tit-for-tat, he-hit-me-first, “retaliatory strikes” will absolutely guarantee unending war.
        “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

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      • It all works fine, as long as the adults are:
        1) There to help
        2) Hold the offender accountable rather than say “you both need to stop”

        Same goes for the theoretical international laws are absolutely inadequate and useless, as has been demonstrated in countless conflicts (Syria and Ukraine being the most recent examples).

        And really, when one side is building shelters for its citizens, and the other is calling for its citizens to protect its weapons caches acting as human shields, do we really need to question who’s right and who’s wrong?

        I don’t think you have a clear view of what’s going on. Israel is not engaged in “retaliatory strikes” but is actively hunting down those who target its civilian population. I don’t appreciate your representation of both sides as equally wrong. To me its like saying that a police officer is wrong when using violence to release a hostage from a kidnapper. Yes, violence is bad. No, its not bad under all circumstances.

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      • And there we have the reason why it will never stop.
        Again, your reasoning makes me unbelievably sad and frustrated.
        Thanks for reading my post, but I need this conversation to end now.

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  5. There is no good reason for hatred and carnage. I feel helpless in the face of ingrained emotions and motives. that destroy.
    A dear friend of mine is Ukrainian. going to school in Canada. Her family is in the Ukraine in a region that has not been actively involved in the blood shed and fighting I pray they will continue to be safe. I read with horror of the fighting in that country and try to imagine what it would be like if the US was once again in a civil war.
    I was a teacher of special needs children and I too taught my students to resolve differences peacefully.
    I do know that violence begats more violence.
    thanks for another thought-provoking post. I read all of your blogs with interest.

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    • Thank you, for reading, for commenting, for teaching special children, and for sharing my belief that the only hope for peace is for all of us to commit to it.
      I also have a Ukrainian friend, living here in the US, and we are both following that story with sadness and frustration, too.
      Be well!!
      Karen

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  6. I recently told my husband that if the governments were replaced by women that the wars would stop in those countries because what mother wants to see her children go to war. Mothers in those countries have seen enough bloodshed and felt enough loss and hardship to last eternity. I wish they could just be able to raise their children in a loving, peaceful environment void of fear and suffering. Mothers just want to love and be loved and be surrounded by family and community in peace. That is my prayer for those countries at war.

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    • I so agree with you!!! All anyone really wants is to live quiet lives with those they love…..Its the people who make so much money out of war, and out of the resources of others, that have us all killing each other endlessly.

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