Healing collective trauma will lead to peace in the Holy Land

The author and Brit Olam founder, Ofer Lifschitz, visiting Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2004. Photo: (DeLear/Lifschitz)

There’s a common misperception that the constant state of warfare and conflict that besets the Holy Land, Eretz Israel, or in Arabic, Bilad Ash’ Sham, is a result of some cultural or racial flaw—“oh, they’ve been fighting for two thousand years, they’ll never stop.”

Even the most cursory examination of human history reveals skirmishes, battles, and wars, interwoven throughout our timeline, have been perpetrated by all religions, races, and cultures. People are people. And a kinder gentler human civilization can be had, but it has to be taught, and then walked.

As I observed in a report on the Holy Land in 2009—contrary to popular belief—history’s wars and military campaigns have been launched largely due to political agendas, power struggles, or naked resource/land grabs—and although often cloaked in religious trappings—religion has primarily been used as a war-making tool; to mobilize foot soldiers, and rally public opinion when necessary.

Humans are pack animals (viz. “leader of the pack”, not “backpack”), and in modern civilization, we have been arranged into herds within herds; overlapping groupings and interchangeable associations, class, race, religion. But in order to change the perpetual dynamic of two warring peoples, polarized, locked in conflict—efforts must be taken to bring the poles together. This can be accomplished through education by blurring ethnocentric distinctions, emphasizing the universality of what it means to be human—our basic needs, hopes, and dreams. A facet of this ‘coming together’ process involves a sincere effort to understand the life experiences and background of the different societies at play—to be aware—and especially—to empathize with individual and/or group trauma.

While working with an inspiring new organization called the Euphrates Institute, founder Janessa Gans relayed a profound concept from Palestinian nonviolence activist Sami Awad with the Holy Land Trust

“It is up to the Palestinians to do what the international community has failed to do for the Jewish people: to heal the trauma they have experienced.”

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