A Photo, a Story, and a Statement of Hope

Amidst all the horrifying photos and video clips that have flooded our screens in the past ten days was one that should serve us as a source of hope and faith in future peace as a viable long term conviction.

The photo comes from kibbutz Be’eri, the community that suffered the hardest devastation on October 7th

It shows a Peace Now sticker on a window in a home at the kibbutz. Behind the sticker, through the screen, you can see a couple of small decorative pots and the silhouette of a neighboring home and a vehicle.

This photo tells a story and makes a statement.

The story is that of the kibbutzim which surround the Gaza Strip. Many of their residents are peace activists. More than 90% of Be’eri’s residents voted for left or center-left wing parties in last November’s elections. Fewer than 5% voted for the right. Two particular residents of a neighboring kibbutz, Nir Oz, exemplify this community’s values. They are Oded and Yocheved Lifshitz. The two helped establish Nir Oz in 1957. Yocheved is 85. Her husband, Oded, is 83 years old. They are also among the founders of Israel’s Peace Now movement. Oded has been volunteering with Shalom Achshav since its founding. In past years, the two volunteered with an Israeli organization that helps Gazan patients reach Israeli hospitals. They used to meet the patients at the border crossing and drive them to a hospital inside Israel for cancer treatments or other procedures. Oded, after a long career as a journalist, continued in recent years to publish opinion articles in Haaretz and enjoyed playing his piano. Yocheved is a retired teacher and a photographer.

Oded and Yocheved are missing, presumably held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After apparently snatching them from their home, terrorists torched the beautiful house, turning the numerous photos and Oded’s piano into ashes.

The photo of the Peace Now sticker on the shattered window in Be’eri not only tells the story of Oded, Yocheved, and the many other peace activists in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. It also makes a statement of commitment to peace and hope for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.

In Israel, blood is still boiling after the terrible trauma of October 7th. It will continue to boil for a long time. But once Israelis consider their future relationship with their Palestinian neighbors, they may conclude that relying on military power alone, without a vision of a political settlement, is not a solution. “Mowing the lawn,” as Israeli security chiefs call it, managing the conflict, is a recipe for further bloodshed and agony for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Our organizations, Shalom Achshav in Israel and Americans for Peace Now here in the United States, will redouble our efforts to bolster that vision and to encourage Israelis and their friends in America to pursue it.

(Photo credit: Oren Ziv)