According to the esteemed peace mediator John Paul Lederach, moral imagination is “the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to something that does not exist.”
Below is a two-minute video titled “Before the Ceasefire” that captures rare footage from peace rallies organized by two Hebrew/Arabic peace education schools in Israel with whom reGeneration Education partners. They are a testament to the power of people with moral imagination. They can lead the way for us all, even while bombs and missiles are being exchanged, as was the case in the latest round of violence between Hamas and Israel.
I vividly remember the last exchange of weapons of war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. reGeneration Education had recently co-founded the Southern California Muslim-Jewish Forum to foster relationships between Muslim and Jewish leaders in Los Angeles and stand against Islamophobia and antisemitism. We had to cope with the pain and rage in the larger communities and ourselves and reflexive tribalism, and the lack of trust. We stayed in the mix, using every tool we had to process our vicarious trauma resulting from what we were witnessing. We did this personal and collective work to keep our diverse group authentically connected with a united sense of purpose.
As the cycle of violence has come around again, I’ve witnessed that same dynamic of vicarious trauma resulting in pain, rage, and tribalism. This time with an even greater unraveling of relationships between crucial faith groups of adults and students working to build bonds between each other. Imagine how difficult it is today for the interfaith environment in Israel and Palestine! Imagine how committed our colleagues in Israel and Palestine are to continue building their institutions of hope!
One of the key things I’ve learned from interfaith work through the years is how important it is for communities to come together during and after bouts of violence to mourn the mutual cost of such violence and the senseless deaths.
Once while I was in Israel at Yad v’Shem I visited a unique memorial for the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust. The tribute area is hollowed out from an underground cavern with endless little candle lights shining into a dark void, alluding to the many little souls whose lives were so cruelly and senselessly extinguished. It was crushing to me to enter into this sacred ground.
As a child of a father who helped rescue child survivors of the Holocaust, the teaching from that memorial is extremely clear. Our civilization must do what we can to cultivate a world where children will not be victims of war. Period.
And we need to come to learn that just as systemic racism is ingrained, complex, and nuanced, systemic violence in our civilization is also ingrained, complex, and nuanced. As an act of healing and remembrance, I want to provide a small opportunity for the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim readers of this blog to collectively mourn all the recent deaths of the innocent children living in Gaza and Israel. Here is what I know about these children so far. In Israel, two children were killed. One was five, and one was 16. I was unable to find their names or pictures. In Gaza, there were 63 children killed. Here is a link to the names and photos of the 63 children killed in Gaza.
How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them? The famous child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim taught that violence happens when we lack the imagination to come up with other alternatives. Peace mediator John Paul Lederach’s answer is that transcending violence is forged by the capacity to generate, mobilize, and build moral imagination.
The entire thrust of reGeneration Education’s trauma-informed peacebuilding work in crisis zones fosters children’s sense of moral imagination. We do this through supporting the courageous and visionary peace education communities in Israel and Palestine, bilingual kindergartens Orchard of Abraham’s Children in Jaffa and Ein Bustan in the Bedouin village of Hilf, as well as Tamrat El Zeitoun in the Galilee, and House of Hope in the West Bank.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Thank you for your ongoing support at this critical time as we support children to learn how to imagine and create a better future for themselves and the world.
Shepha Vainstein, LMFT, President, reGeneration Education Board of Directors