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And They Will No Longer Study Warfare...

"Doves of Peace," by Malak Mattar who grew up in Gaza, with permission.



They shall beat their  swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer study warfare.


-Isaiah 2:4


An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive, abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others."


― Bryan Stevenson, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption"




A child of war, I had never experienced an act of war until 9/11. I did not lose anyone close to me that day, but have friends, students and colleagues who barely survived. I know one or two people who signed up to become soldiers, to fight "for our country." Swords into ploughshares: one soldier eventually became a relief worker in Afghanistan during America's 20-year occupation, another disappeared into refugee camp in Chad as a medic and surfaced in Tunisia ten years later. I have Israeli cousins who refused to fight Palestinians and ended up in jail as conscientious objectors, others who are proud IDF warriors. I have Palestinian friends whose families were deracinated during the Nakba and are so bitter and distraught right now they have asked me to remove them from my blog blasts. "I cannot read what you write," one said, which is more a lament than a reason. 


We are all afflicted and conflicted, we are all in pain. 


I have been collecting quotes about war, peace, reconciliation justice and disarmament for a very long time. I pulled up a couple of them for this post in an effort to focus my thoughts this week which seem to be running with the wind and the falling leaves, a wild language only a Lenape can track and decipher, but they too are displaced. Because of all the rain this summer, it's not a brilliant autumn here; there are very few oranges and reds. The leaves turn yellow, then slightly orange, then brown, and fall. That seems the perfect metaphor for the war fever in the Middle East and the ongoing catastrophe in Ukraine with its ever increasing body count: what once was vivid and potent with life, has been destroyed by human stupidity and callous disregard, or been forced into violent self-defense and then offense, an unintended consequence of patriotism and nation building.


I am not sure if I am a Pacifist, with a capital P, or if I would take up arms against an oppressor, or if I would have the strength of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King Jr. to lay my body down in the path of a tank. I don't think anyone can predict what they would do in a reign of terror. And I am sitting in a comfortable room in upstate New York where  there are no bombs, no soldiers, no air raid sirens,  and there is food in my refrigerator and water flowing out of the tap. So I can only offer my thoughts here today, and my feelings: I am utterly sickened by these wars. I am heartbroken.




Vengeance, whatever its justification or cause, is a wrecking ball. The soldiers go off to war wrapped in their flags. The arms dealers and manufacturers continue to amass their fortunes. Diplomats in heavily curtained rooms speak in tongues, seemingly impotent to stop the war fever.


"Rules of war?" That's an oxymoron. Why even pretend that there are rules of war? Or try to enforce them?  


We are not dumb, we are not living in caves. We can see and hear and feel the government officials and diplomats who speak sense, and those who resort to platitudes and lies.    




This post is dedicated to the innocent civilians in Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine. And to those who fight for peace, the only war worth fighting. 


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A Maze of Sorrows


As these squalls to which we have been subjected are signs that the weather will soon improve and things will go well for us, because it is not possible for the evil or the good to last forever, and so it follows that as evil has lasted for a long time, good must now be close at hand…


-Miguel de Cervantes, "Don Quixote,"  1605


As a major in the reserves, it is important to me to make it clear that in this already unstoppable new war, we cannot allow the massacre of innocent Israelis to result in the massacre of innocent Palestinians… Palestinians and Israelis must denounce the extremists who are driven by religious fanaticism.


-Nir Avishai Cohen, NY Times 10/13/23



This is, in small part, a story about one writer, a child of Holocaust survivors, struggling to navigate the shoals of biblical hatred, fear, rampage and retribution. She is neither Palestinian, nor is she Israeli; she is an American. And yet her Israeli and Palestinian friends insist she write about their "side" of the story, without context, without history, without opinion. She has felt her friends' impatience and coercion in the midst of their despair, pain and fear. She has been threatened, she has been unfriended.


A maze is not a labyrinth, though I have confused them often. A labyrinth is a continuous spiral with beginning and end. There is entrance and there is escape. A maze, on the other hand, has insurmountable obstacles that must be demolished or overcome to escape.  Because the sweetness of life, however fleeting, has been obliterated in both Israel and Palestine, the sorrow I feel is a maze.


As many of you know, I compiled and edited a book of stories by international humanitarian relief workers. I am still in touch with some of the contributors to that anthology. When war or natural disaster strikes, they are on the ground trying to save lives. In those dire moments their country of origin, ethnicity, and religion is irrelevant as they work together. They remain my model and my hope.


One of the most prominent organizations is the International Rescue Committee. They sent out this message after the rampage by Hamas and the Israeli siege of Gaza:


We are dismayed by the dramatic escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza this weekend and mourn the lives lost. We are currently assessing the situation on the ground and the IRC's capacity to ensure critical, life-saving humanitarian relief reaches affected civilians. The IRC calls on all parties to uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and ensure humanitarian access to those affected.



1/  I stand with international humanitarian law and humanitarian corridors.

2/ I stand against all atrocity, persecution, and senseless killing.

3/ I stand with Palestinian children and Israeli children.

4/ I stand with the Israeli demonstrators who once out of uniform will continue their struggle. May the soldiers return unharmed or permanently scarred by battle—physically and psychologically-- so that they can create a modern, inclusive Israel and accept the reality of a Palestinian homeland.

5/ I stand with the peaceful residents of Gaza. May they survive the Israeli onslaught and live in peace. May the Hamas fanatics retreat to their caves and tunnels, and stay there, never to surface again. May all the hostages  return home safely.

6/ I stand with the freedom to write what I feel, experience and observe.


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Pretend You Are a Refugee

 Photographer and/or artist unknown.




Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil…


  -from the St. James Bible, "Exodus"


… a conference was convened at The Hague in 1899. Twenty European powers attended  along with the United States, Mexico, Japan, China. Siam  and Persia. The Russian proposals for freezing armament levels were defeated, but the convention did agree on rules of warfare and established a permanent court of arbitration… the International Court of Justice…


-Robert K. Massie, "Nicholas and Alexandra"(1967)



The refugee agency sent my parents to Wyoming. They were doctors and could use their skill to find work, they were told. They had no choice. Refugees rarely have choices. Not at first, anyway, not just after they've landed and been shuttled somewhere or other. Pretend. Imagine what it feels like to be at the mercy of broken systems, callous border guards, and opportunistic Governors running for President.


My mother got a job as a nurse's aide, studied English, and tried to get visas for her parents. No luck; they were killed. My father got a job as a "ghost doctor," shadowing ophthalmic surgeons and sharing his particular expertise in still fractured English. The Latin medical words were the same, at least. He tried to get visas for his parents. No luck; they were killed. Meanwhile, the refugee agency scattered his siblings. One of them landed in Canada, another in California. Close enough to stay in contact over the years  so that the word "family" still held meaning. My mother, an only child, had a cousin or two left, but everyone else was killed.


And so it goes if you are a refugee. What has been taken violently shall not, cannot be replaced. Every reparation, restitution, or truth and reconciliation commission, is inadequate, a mere gesture, a token, however comforting. The past is past and cannot be retrieved or rewritten. Life may begin in an olive orchard and end in a tent city.


On bad days I try to remember how fortunate I am to have American citizenship despite the scary fascistic insanity here at the moment. And if I can't face my daily challenges, I say to myself, "Think of your parents. Think of the Afghans, Armenians, Palestinians, and so many others. Pretend you are a refugee."  How does this help? It keeps me humble. It keeps me hopeful. It keeps me determined. The United States of America was once a safe haven. And so it shall remain, I say to myself.


Why am I pretending to be a refugee today? Because it's been a challenging day and I am feeling sorry for myself. My car needs new tires, it has sprung a leak and needs to go into the shop today and then again on Monday. I had to drop it off early this morning and walk home under a thunder-threatening sky on a road too busy with traffic. And it was foggy. Okay so I am tired and have work to do, my knees hurt and I am not supposed to walk too much this week. Big deal. Get on with it. Stop complaining. Pretend you are a refugee. Your problems are nothing compared to the refugees who are drowning off boats in the Mediterranean, or cowering inside containers at Le Havre, getting caught and thrown into cells, treated like cattle until they feel so dehumanized and frightened they can hardly answer questions: "Where are you from? Why are you here? Where are your papers?" 


My father's parents were killed en route to America, the promised land, shot dead in the mountains, their bodies left for the coyotes. Using their life savings, they had hired a human coyote, in fact, and he didn't make it either. All dead in the mountains. My grandparents' bones are in a crevasse and cannot be retrieved for a proper burial.


And so it goes if you are a refugee, trying to escape a war zone, or persecution because of your sexuality, or because you are a young woman living in Iran threatened with imprisonment after getting arrested during a demonstration, or because you are a Palestinian and have grown up in a refugee camp in Jordan and cannot return to what should be a shared homeland with the Jewish People if the words peace and reconciliation meant anything.


Pretend you are a refugee, just for an hour, just for a day. And then get out the vote for people who are competent, people who care, politicians who see beyond our borders to the world beyond and all its struggling people.


This post is dedicated to Narges Mohammadi, winner of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize, who is still imprisoned in Iran. Her husband and twin sons are refugees in Paris.

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