“Don’t Kill Freddy”: A Narrative Approach to Peacemaking

That is what my daughter Lexi wrote on an elaborate sign, beautifully painted, that greeted me one Sunday morning.

I could not imagine who Freddy was. Hours earlier, with the family still asleep, I had discovered a small mouse in our guest room. I scooted out and shut the door fast. We knew we had to find some sort of trap before the house became infested. Well, Lexi went into a serious funk. She has just become vegetarian, animals are everything to her, and here I was about to kill “Freddy”. What she did was to name the thing I was about to kill. She had never met the mouse, but she just knew that she wanted me to stop. So she made several pictures about Freddy, but most importantly, she named him. I was no longer going to get rid of a pest, I was about to kill ‘Freddy’.

I thought to myself what a brilliant tactic she used on her larger than life, all powerful father, hell bent on murder, a militarist to the core when it comes to pests. And I looked at myself, and I thought about how many militarists I have confronted in the Arab Israeli conflict….

Lexi made a story, she created a narrative with a living precious being at the core. Next thing I know I am researching hardware stores for which one carries live traps. This was after examining the costs and benefits of inventing a trap ourselves and getting a bite and a shot at the emergency room. Lexi was not interested in that discussion, really. Just thinking about Freddy.

The whole incident immediately flashed to the Sulha gathering of three days that I had just participated in at Latrun Monastery outside Jerusalem together with hundreds of Jews and Palestinians. The sweet sorrow of my practice over the decades has been the face, the name, the life story, of the “parties to the conflict”. The way in which I now know the human beings who suffer at 600 checkpoints, who suffer humiliation at the hands of untrained eighteen year old soldiers, the amazing Jewish young idealistic people i always meet searching for a better world who also ride the buses that periodically get attacked. Their faces, their stories are ingrained in my consciousness and in my heart, and it makes it harder to live with their murder. In fact, it makes it impossible to be at peace. And THAT is the beginning of conscience and commitment to change.

Name the enemy, and even the clearest most understandable plan for liquidation, such as that of a household owner before a pest, becomes a drama in which the hard-hearted cannot win. And that is why I am spending my life these days on film and on encouraging such gatherings as Sulha where real stories and real experiences are exchanged in an open and honest way. Here are some pictures of the interfaith aspect of those exchanges. This is a tiny fraction of the thousands of exchanges, where names were exchanged, and one’s universe became different.

© Marc Gopin