A mother laments
By Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Thank you for inviting me to share with you the struggle for peace in my country. I say "my country", but I don't even know if this term is correct any more. What exactly is mine in this country depends very much on what I identify with. And today it is very difficult for me to answer that for it is very hard to identify with anything in a place that has let Death have dominion over it.

My little girl was killed just because she was born Israeli -- killed by a young man who felt hopeless to the point of murder and suicide, just because he was born a Palestinian.

After her death, a reporter asked me how I can accept condolences from the other side. I said to her, spontaneously, that I do not accept condolences from the other side. And when the mayor of Jerusalem came to offer his condolences, I went to my room because I didn't want to speak to him or shake his hand. Because for me, the "other side" is not the Palestinians.

I believe that dividing the population into two enemy sides, Palestinians and Israelis, is a wrong and a murderous division. For me, the whole population of the area, and of the world, has always been divided into two other distinct groups: peace lovers and war lovers.

But today I know there is yet another division in Israel: On the face of the earth, there rules the Kingdom of Evil where, for the last 34 years, people who call themselves leaders have earned, through democratic means, the right to kill and destroy and be as vile and corrupt as they please, to have young boys become expert killers, whether in the name of God, of the good of the nation, or in the name of honour and courage.

These evil people have created yet another kingdom, a glorious kingdom that flourishes and grows larger every day -- a kingdom that lives and breathes under our feet, under the earth on which we walk. There is where my little daughter dwells, side by side with Palestinian children, and where I dwell side by side with those Palestinian parents who, for the most part, have never held a gun and have never obeyed orders to kill anyone. There she dwells, alongside her murderer, whose blood is mingled with hers on the stones of Jerusalem, stones that have long grown indifferent to human blood. There they lie, both of them, deceived.

He is deceived because his act of murder and suicide did not change anything, did not end the Israeli cruel occupation, did not bring him to heaven, and the people who promised him that his act would be meaningful carry on as if he had never existed.

My little girl is deceived because she believed her life was safe, that her parents and her country were protecting her from evil, and that no harm can come to little girls who are good and gentle and go through the streets of their own cities to a dance class.

And they are both deceived because the world is going on living as if their blood had never been shed.

Both are victims of their so-called leaders. And those "leaders" keep on playing their murderous games, using our children as their puppets and our grief as an incentive to go on with their vindictive tricks. For them, children are abstract entities, numbers; and grief is a political tool.

All they must do to draw more and more young and enthusiastic little soldiers into their units is to find a God that would ordain this killing. And each of them finds Him in their own bibles, in their own mythologies. They commit their crimes in the name of the Jewish God and in the name of the Muslim God -- while in Ireland and in Eastern Europe, people kill each other for different versions of their Christian God.

And now the "enlightened" leaders of the west kill in the name of the God of Freedom!

The truth is, they all recruit man-made gods to their sides: the God of Racism and the God of Greed and Megalomania. This is not new in the history of man. People have always used God as an excuse for their crimes.

From a very tender age, children learn about Joshua, the glorified leader who murdered the whole population of Jericho in the name of God. Then they learn about the prophet Eliyahu who killed the 450 priests of the Baal because they practised a different religion. Then there was Eliyahu's disciple Elisha who brought death, with the help of God, upon 42 children who mocked him by calling him bald. Not to mention the adored King David and his terrible deeds.

In our culture that allows killing as a means of solving social and religious problems, and where people identify themselves with biblical heroes and see themselves as their descendents, all these stories are glorified and overshadow the story about the God who said, "Lay not thy hand upon the child."

But children can also learn about the God who has mercy for all people. Only by educating our children that killing, starving and humiliating the innocent are unforgiveable crimes can we save them from joining the evil forces that are luring them. The evil forces of Israel and the evil forces of the Palestinians.

Through long and cruel occupation, Israel is making it easy for young Palestinians to turn to the way of terrorism. But terrorism dominates both forces. An organised army that terrorises a whole population is even more criminal than any guerrilla group.

There is no "enlightened" killing and "barbaric" killing. There is only criminal killing. For me, Sadam Hussein, Ariel Sharon, and George Bush, father and son, are all the same for they have all inflicted pain and death upon innocent populations. If we don't tell our children that these men are unscrupulous murderers, we shall never have people who rule out killing from the outset as a solution to social and political problems.

Today, when there is no opposition to Israel, there is no more meaning to left or right for they all give their consent to the atrocities that go on in this country. Therefore, the European condemnation of those deeds and of their doers is highly important.

It is time to tell the world that words like heroism, courage and manhood can kill, and that the death of one child, any child, whether Serbian, Albanian, Iraqi or Jewish, is the death of the whole world -- its past and its future.

The helpless cries of dying children and bereaved mothers are never heard by politicians and generals -- especially not in a Jerusalem that everybody thinks is made of gold but is really made of stones and iron and lead. It is time these cries were heard above all others, for these are the only voices that remain after the violence.

These are the voices that understand that all bloods are equal, that it takes so little to kill a child and so much to keep her alive. They understand that ending the war means to adopt a dialogic approach to negotiation and not a smart dealer approach; that people should talk -- not in order to bring the others to their knees and win the argument, but in order to come to terms.

Ending the war means that I don't care what flag is put on which mountain. It means that I don't care who looks where when they pray. It means that nothing is more important than to secure a little girl's way to her dance class.

I call all parents who have not yet lost your children, or who may be about to: stand up to the politicians; teach your children not to follow their murderous ways. If we don't listen to the voices of peace that come from underneath, very soon there will be nothing left to say, nothing left to write, nothing left to listen to except the perpetual cry of mourning.

Please. Save the children.