Moral Injury in Israel/Palestine and the Role of Hope in Nurturing Soul Repair – by Rev. Mary Wilson

A dear friend of mine, Reverend Mary Wilson has agreed to let me share her recent paper entitled:  “Moral Injury in Israel/Palestine and the Role of Hope in Nurturing Soul Repair”. Reverend Wilson recently returned from a trip to Israel and Palestine in which she had the opportunity to meet and converse with both Israelis and Palestinians. Her reflections on Moral Injury and the hope for ‘soul repair’ for these two peoples is also correlated to the impact of Moral Injury experienced by U.S. war veterans in this paper.

You may download the .pdf and read it at the bottom of this post.

A couple great quotes from the paper:

From my vantage point of an outside observer, it appears that the current Israeli government has no incentive to seek a comprehensive peace plan.  They are capable of squelching random attacks and have the power to allow the settlements to continue to carve up Palestinian territory.  Furthermore, they use the attacks as a basis for justifying harsher and harsher consequences for the Palestinians.  And yet, I cannot see how the course of action can sustain itself indefinitely.  Occupations are always resisted.  As one of our Palestinian guides expressed the sentiment, “We were here before the state of Israel, before the British, and before the Ottomans.  We will be here when this occupation ends as well.”

Here is the climate in which moral injury resides on a daily basis.

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Over and over, from the stories of our war veterans, to the Holocaust survivors, to the people of Palestine in refugee camps, to the human rights activists, we heard how important it is to tell the stories of their experiences.  This is the first step in soul repair work.  Silence only perpetuates and exacerbates the moral injury.

Fortunately, we were able to hear how a couple of groups in Israel/Palestine are working to break the silence.  One group is called “Combatants for Peace.”  The members of this group are Palestinians who have been in conflict with the Israel Defense Forces, possibly imprisoned for a variety of reasons including violent confrontations.  The other half of this group are Jews who have served in the IDF who speaking out about their moral injuries that occurred as a result of their service.  They have two primary goals, build relationships with one another and tell their stories. One way they share their stories is through theater. In that setting they are able to speak in multiple voices in ways that are unavailable elsewhere.

We also heard of the value of theatre for the children in the Aida refugee camp.  The theme of their theater work is “beautiful resistance.”  In addition to providing a platform for the children of the camp to share their stories, they also want the children to come away with the belief that their voices matter.  Theater allows them to express themselves in ways that are suppressed in most every other aspect of their lives.

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It is important to keep in mind, as Sherman reminds us, that there is no “universal soldier.” Everyone experiences war differently. Everyone experiences their moral injuries differently and consequently, everyone will experience a variety of paths to healing.  That is especially true of those who fought for the United States in comparison to those impacted by the Israel/Palestine conflict. But, I found it compelling to hear the common refrain of the role of hope from both U.S. veterans and those engaged in seeking peace in Israel/Palestine. There is something about hope that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.

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Moral Injury – Full Paper