“Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore” ~ Brave Israeli Jews Seek to Forge New Path

Ruth ~ New Profile
Photo credit: Dawn

“He was only 15 years old. He was a pacifist.” Ruth is describing her son. “Israel is not a state with a military, but a military with a state,” she says. Ruth is an Israeli Jewish woman, one of the founders of New Profile: A Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society. She tells us that in Israel there is no place for pacifists. Boys must serve for 3 years and girls for 2. Any attitude that dares question the fundamental principle of enlistment is almost incomprehensible in a soldiers’ state. It is rejected as illegitimate.

Avner ~ Breaking the Silence
Photo Credit: Ellinor

My mind wanders. I am remembering another young man, age 27, who spoke with us five weeks ago. As a proud paratrooper, Avner carried a “colt” inscribed “property of the US government.” At 18 he joined the army, as did all of his peers. He saw it as his duty “to protect Jews from Arabs.” Taught to believe that the army was “holy,” he served 3 years in the West Bank and took seriously his mandate: to control 2.5 million civilians by force. It was here that, for him, “the bubble burst!”

Avner is now an avid spokesperson for Breaking the Silence. Founded in 2004, this organization of veteran combatants is committed to educating the Israeli public on the moral price paid for an occupation which does not allow soldiers to see the “other” as equal. Avner is a bright, articulate, passionate young man, committed to exposing the underside of the occupation. He is convinced that the majority of Israeli Jews do not know the atrocities that soldiers are committing against other human beings in their name. In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done. To date, approximately 850 veterans who have served since 2000 have bravely come forward to share their experiences. “What future do we have as Jews if we push this issue aside?” he asks. “We are excellent at war and intifadas (uprisings). But we do not know how to deal with non-violence.”

45 Years of Occupation ~ Combatants for Peace Say, “Enough!”
Photo Credit: cfpeace.org

Fast forward two weeks to an encounter I had in a northern West Bank village. While visiting our EAPPI placement in Yanoun, I met representatives of Combatants for Peace ~ 3 Israeli Jews and 2 Palestinians who had come to investigate the newest “outpost” (trailer) belonging to the illegal Itamar settlement, 1 of 8 outposts that are perched on the hilltops surrounding this tiny village of 75 inhabitants. These Israelis and Palestinians have taken an active part in this ongoing cycle of violence; but now, instead of fighting each other, they have laid down their guns to work for peace. This brave group of women and men believe that “only by joining together, only in seeking to understand the national aspirations of the other side, only by means of dialogue and reconciliation will it be possible to terminate the Israeli occupation, to halt the settlement project, and to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, alongside the State of Israel.”

New Profile Seeks to Expose
the Normalization
of a Militarized State
Photo Credit: newprofile.org

“Our son’s trial was the first trial of a pacifist in Israel.” It is Ruth’s voice that pulls me back to the present. “Our case went to the Israeli High Court: It took us 6 years, but my son was finally released from mandatory conscription ~ he was deemed ‘unsuitable.’” In the process, New Profile was born ~ 30 October 1998. Ruth tells us that her 3 younger sons also did not enlist in the military. “‘Refusniks’ are becoming more and more common,” she says. The New Profile Hotline receives over 200 calls per month. Faced with no legal option for conscientious objectors who refuse to participate in an illegal occupation, young people are released on grounds of unfitness or poor health ~ it’s virtually their only way out. New Profile sees this as “discriminatory and non-democratic.”

But they are rowing upstream. Ruth and the 60+ activists that make up New Profile are not popular with the Israeli government or the Ministry of Education. Two years ago they were investigated, and Liebermann has labeled the group as one of the most dangerous organizations in Israel. But they are a brave, determined lot ~ they are working to save their children, and their children’s children ~ and to uphold Jewish values that protect and preserve life ~ all life.

No More War
Photo Credit: Dawn

As Ruth makes her concluding remarks, I am reminded of an ancient dream, the words of which have echoed down through the corridors of time: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.” ~ These words are attributed to Isaiah, ancient Israel’s prophet from the 8th century BCE, who also had an alternative vision of a world without war ~ This image is picked up in the black gospel tradition of spirituals: “I ain’t gonna study war no more” ~ War is not the answer. It never has been. It never will be ~ I am reminded of another teacher of alternative wisdom from the 1st century CE who, when he looked out over Jerusalem, wept: “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” ~ Can we envision a world without war? ~ Can we recognize the things that make for peace? ~ Do we have the courage to do what it takes for this dream to become a reality?

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11 Responses to “Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore” ~ Brave Israeli Jews Seek to Forge New Path

  1. Carolyn McDade says:

    As always, thank you for sharing these stories. Each dream, each story furthers our collective dream. . .may we now live this dream. Carolyn

  2. Janet E. Campbell says:

    Hello Dawn,
    Thank you for this posting that shows there are Israeli Jewish folks that are trying to break down the silent wall and barriers about what really goes on in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. About the Israeli soldiers that talk about what they were asked to do and how they themselves were not in favor of this treatment toward their Palestinian neighbors. About Young Jewish adults refusing to be conscripted into an army that will continue the mistreatment of thier Palestinian neighbors. About Mothers and Fathers being the nuturers they are wanting to be to build Peace together instead of the separation of the many. Sending peaceful thoughts and energy to your journey.

  3. Anne Loewan says:

    This is a hopeful message indeed. Is there any way we can let this brave group know that we stand with them? Anne Loewan

  4. lenorainpalestine says:

    Dear Dawn: Thanks again. Just heard that Alberta minister Lukasyk is in Israel and that he had to leave the area near Gaza due to bombing. You may want to invite him to Bethlehem, to see another side of the story. I want to invite you to McDougall when you are able to do presentations. I would likely open it up to one or more other groups too so as to have a good audience for you. Take care of yourself and each other. Blessings, Lenora

  5. Marilyn says:

    It is truly wonderful to read about these courageous people who just know that there is another way and are working to show that other way. Thanks for sharing their stories, Dawn.

  6. Jim and Margaret Robertson says:

    Thanks for another very moving posting Dawn. How can we get our political masters (I use the term advisedly) to hear these accounts and pay attention? Many of them claim to be devoutly religious so they presumably accept the Hebrew Scriptures and the passage from Isaiah. One expects they also accept the lesson of the Good Samaritan. Is there not a word to describe those who profess something and act in an entirely different way?

  7. pugmother says:

    Dear Dawn,
    Thank you for your message of hope.
    These people are brave indeed for thinking and acting ‘outside the box’.
    I am grateful for their courage and wish them well! We would never have heard about them if it were not for you and all the other observers.
    Thanks, Dawn

  8. Don and Shirley Junk says:

    Hi Dawn
    Thanks for all your postings and particularly this one as it does make me hopeful. You make it very vivid and draw from so many sources it is a joy to read. Thank you for taking all the extra time and energy to do this especially as the work you are doing is, I am sure, exhausting – physically, mentally and spiritually. Stay safe
    Don J

  9. Diana McKerracher says:

    Such important work you are doing, Dawn. Thank you.
    With love & admiration,

  10. Lori says:

    So hopeful! I particularly appreciated reading this post right after the last one. What an emotional roller coaster it must be for all concerned…

  11. Thanks so much for your postings. Some of them are so sad, yet hopeful. You are an amazing writer. Maybe you will write a book when you return! Thinking of you often and wishing you and the team to be safe as you travel around.

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