“We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older
We’re all someone’s daughter
We’re all someone’s son
How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?
You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear
This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better…”
– John Farnham ‘You’re the Voice’
The land of Israel came to mean many things to me while I was growing up in Sri Lanka. I attended a Christian boy’s school and studied and practised Christianity, so this led me to regard Israel as the birthplace of Christianity.
As a teenager, I became enamoured with the Israeli military. Watching all those Rambo movies had made me into a wannabe badass and from what I had read and learned, the Israeli military were the best at what they did. Reading about events such as the six-day war, the daring Operation Entebbe and the Uzi sub-machine gun made this wannbe badass worship the Israeli military with great fervour. Around that time, I also came to know of Mossad – the fabled and infamous Israeli intelligence agency. These guys took it to a whole other level … and I was smitten.
I remember visiting the ‘Israeli Interests Section’ of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo with another wannabe badass to pick up some tourism posters (it was the only way we could see to build some sort of connection with the place that we were so awe-struck by). It was like going on a pilgrimage. I received my posters ever so gratefully and rushed home to hang them. I placed them with great care and pride in my bedroom, alongside my posters of Arnie (I had moved on from Rambo by then) and Madonna. I was madly in love and the Israeli military was the object of my affection.
Fast forward some twenty five or so years to today: I am much older and life has taught me a few things. I have changed as a result of what I have learned. I now choose to value all life and therefore abhor killing and violence – no matter what the reason or excuse. I have moved away from politics and I am no longer someone who believes in taking sides. I no longer admire military prowess as much as I once did (though I respect and salute the courage and selflessness of warriors everywhere), but instead, I admire and support all those who stand for peace and unity in this world. I am also conscious that violence and conflict happen for a reason and that there are always two sides to every story.
Interestingly though, after all these years and despite all the changes that I have undergone, some of the people I admire the most still hail from the land of Israel. It will be my absolute pleasure to introduce you to some of them, through the remainder of this post.
Ronny and Michal and The Peace Factory
I first wrote about Ronny Edry and his wife Michal back in August of last year. You can read the post here: No Ordinary People – The Story of Ronny Edry and the Peace Factory.
Ronny is an ex-paratrooper of the Israeli Defence Forces and now spends his time working to bring lasting peace to his country, the Middle-Eastern region and the world over.
I imagine that it must have taken a great deal of courage for someone from Ronny’s background to do what he has done – to reach out to those he might have been used to referring to as ‘the enemy’. And what a difference it has made – to his own life and the lives of so many others around the world?!
You can learn more about The Peace Factory by visiting http://thepeacefactory.org
Courage to Refuse and The Combatant’s Letter
There is a growing movement within the Israeli military and society. It is a movement by conscientious objectors who are refusing to participate in military action that they perceive as being aimed at suppressing the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories. The movement began in 2002 following a statement referred to as ‘The Combatant’s Letter‘ by a group of 50 combat officers and soldiers led by Captain David Zonshein and Lieutenant Yaniv Itzkovits.
In their statement, the founding members of the the Courage to Refuse movement make it clear that while they would willingly carry out any orders relating to preserving the security of Israel, they would “not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.”
These brave men and women have taken the idea of ‘courage’ beyond fighting to safeguard their country and way of life. They have stretched the concept to include serving prison terms and facing social stigma by refusing to be a part of something they see as being wrong in their eyes. They are also wise enough to see that since oppression provokes violent reaction, that by preventing oppression, they are in fact contributing to peace and to safeguarding the security of the state of Israel.
You can learn more about their movement here: Courage to Refuse
I would like to make something clear to anyone reading this who is currently serving in the Israeli military or is otherwise connected to it: I did not write this post in order to put you down or to say what you are doing is wrong. I would never do that. My own father and brother served in the Sri Lankan military and I understand and respect all of you because of my background. I am writing this for entirely different reasons. Also, it may not be my place to say this, but I urge you not to think of your fellow countrymen and women who have refused to serve as people who are protesting against you. I don’t believe this way of thinking gives the correct picture.
I think the point that they are all making is that we can do better than war. I agree, and this is why I am sharing their message. I am also writing this because, even though I was never a solider, I have first-hand experience of being the brother and son of two servicemen. And this experience has taught me a few things:
- I KNOW I would much rather have had my brother and father home with me, so I could share my life with them and enjoy their company, than have them be away from home for months on end. I’m sure your families would like that too.
- I KNOW I would much rather my father and brother didn’t have to carry the heavy burden of what they had to see and do in the name of war, than to have lived with that pain. I’m sure your families would like that for you too.
- I KNOW I would much rather have had my brother be somewhere safe, warm and comfortable, than to have been sleeping in jungles without having proper food or even a shower. I’m sure your families would like that for you too.
- I KNOW I would much rather my brother be alive today and for my parents and siblings to not have suffered the pain of his untimely death. I’m sure your families would like that for you and themselves too.
- I KNOW I would much rather live in peace and harmony with all my neighbours and countrymen with no fear of harm to anyone from anyone. I’m sure you and your families would like that too – and this is probably the very reason why you serve.
If you agree with any of the above, then you will see that the things my Israeli heroes are doing to bring about peace are also the things that will result in you and your families having your wishes come true. You don’t need to necessarily agree or join in, but please understand, none of this is against you.
So there you have it friends – these are some of the people I consider to be Israel’s bravest and I salute their courage and wisdom. I pray that the country and the region will see a new era of lasting peace and security for all.
I also hope that more and more people would begin to realise that war in the name of peace is an exercise in futility.
I would like to leave you with a quote from someone who knew a great deal more about war than I ever will:
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
– General Dwight. D. Eisenhower
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