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"In my name, I want no vengeance."
It is one thing for outsiders like myself to call for an end to the cycle of vengeance that, if it proceeds unrestrained, could very easily soak the whole world in blood. It is quite another thing for someone immediately and directly impacted by violence to repudiate revenge.
This video is from Michal Halev, the mother of a young man whom Hamas murdered on October 7.
At the end she says, “In my name, I want no vengeance.”
Why? Because she is a mother. Because she doesn’t want any other mothers, whether they live in Israel or in Gaza, to go through the shattering pain she has. The simplicity of her words cuts right through the fog of reason that forever justifies one more war. I want everyone who might be lost in that fog to hear this woman’s words.
If this mother repudiates revenge, then who dares claim a right to it?
That’s the kind of leadership we need today. We need leaders who are humbled by the courage of women like Michal. A true leader is someone who sets a new course, not someone who merely presides over the momentum of what already is.
I want anyone who aspires to leadership to take Michal’s words to heart.
A simple, naive part of anyone who watches this video thinks, “Of course. It is so simple. Just stop. No more bombs. No more killing. Just stop.” Because, her words ring with a truth and a moral authority that is undeniable. But an instant later, cynical and contemptuous inner voices deride that impulse as naive, impractical, deluded, and foolish. They channel a huge reservoir of grief, rage, and unhealed trauma. They give voice to the anguish of the betrayal of our innocence. And they recruit external voices to validate them, the policy wonks talking about deterring and containing and justifying and punishing, about national interests and the calculations of competing parties.
Some of us listen more than others to the voices of cynicism and derision, the narrow practicality of accepting the human drama as it has been. Some may discard the voice of peace entirely. Others may hold it with suspicion, not daring to let it speak through their own lips. Or they may sequester it in a “spiritual” category, or confine it to the relational realm, not daring to believe it could be the foundation of a new politics.
I don’t care how naive, how politically impractical, how impossible it may seem to put out the fire of hate and blame and revenge that is spreading through the tinderbox of West Asia. In the ordinary course of events, it is impossible. “They will never accept it. They will never do it. They are dead set on wiping _____ off the map. And even if a few leaders changed their minds, they wouldn’t dare go against public opinion that wants revenge.” I know I am asking a lot. I am asking for leaders who will stand strong in the tornado of war hysteria and mob bloodlust and, instead of being swept up in it, lead their people against the wind and out of the storm. I am asking a lot, but it is not impossible. Hope lies in knowing that all involved are human beings with living hearts that can receive the moral force of Michal’s appeal. It can shift them into a new reality in which miracles are possible.
We can stop the cycle of vengeance. The situation in Israel/Palestine poses a grave danger to the world, but an equally great opportunity for a turnaround. A peace miracle here will reverberate throughout all creation. If Michal’s words can reach those with their fingers on the triggers, and move them to make audaciously naive choices, then her son will not have died in vain.
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