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Taking Peace One Day At a Time

We live in a broken world. A world sweltering under climate crisis, where those who contributed to the climate breakdown the least, suffer the greatest toll. A world of rising inequality, where fabulous wealth sits beside abject poverty, and where half the world’s population is predicted to be obese by 2035, while millions still starve to death every year. A world torn asunder by violence, where over 30 countries are currently embroiled in some kind of war or large-scale violent conflict.

Horrific images of bloodied bodies and destroyed buildings from the Ukraine-Russiaand Israel-Hamas conflicts have blanketed our newsfeeds reminding us of just how tragic and costly that broken world can be, raising understandable sympathies in those witnessing the carnage. Perhaps even worse than the coverage of mass killings through terrorist attacks, the collective punishment through bombardment, the starvation, kidnapping, rape, and torture we’ve witnessed these past months, are the dozens of equally brutal conflicts from Sudan to Afghanistan to Yemen and beyond which go largely ignored by the international community. The worst atrocities are often committed away from the international spotlight, and as advocates for peace we must remember to include all those suffering under violent conflict in our calls for peace, not just the current focus of the media. At the same time, we would be foolish to not take advantage of the international community’s attention, however myopic, to do what good we can. 

The war between Russia and Ukraine seems to be grinding onward with few gains on either side, and no end in sight, but in the Middle East at least there are some small signs of hope. Israel and Hamas, along with international partners like the Biden administration have successfully negotiated a 4-day ceasefire with the exchange of several dozen hostages, and humanitarian aid has finally begun reaching the besieged people of Gaza who had lacked adequate supplies of clean drinking water, food, fuel and medical supplies. Although tensions remain high, both sides have upheld the agreement, and the ceasefire has now been extended for an additional two days as prisoners and hostages, primarily women and children, are continued to be exchanged daily. It is a tenuously kept halting of hostilities, seemingly too fragile to last, but it is where we have to begin.

 Peace can only grow in the wake of conflict when we decide to put down our arms, despite all that has come before and begin the long process of healing. In the Jewish faith this act is known as “tikkun olam” the mending of the broken world. With this pause in violence and the advent of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, we must renew our calls as conscientious people to pursue tikkun olam and do the hard work of mending a broken land, and of healing traumatized peoples. Such work is profoundly challenging and yet it is among the highest callings we have.

 As impossible as it seems, we must use this pause to call for a true end to violence and the beginning of using our resources for building understanding and empathy, however fragile, instead of further hatred and suspicion. This is not a task for the faint of heart healing this brokenness will be the work of years, perhaps generations, of profound reconciliation, deep soul searching on both sides, and practicing radical empathy to reshape this broken region from one of war-torn conflict into a flourishing, prosperous land where all people have freedom and representation. Neither side’s leadership has shown interest in walking such a path, preferring instead to cling to the power they’ve accrued under the status quo. Advocates for peace will need more than just political organizing, they will need economic power to sway the powers that be. So join us each Tuesday, in growing solidarity as we work together to mend this broken world in tikkun olam.

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