The Palestine-Israel Journal is a quarterly of MIDDLE EAST PUBLICATIONS, a registered non-profit organization (No. 58-023862-4).
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Editorial Board

Adnan Abdelrazek

Danny Rubinstein

Sam'an Khoury

Daniel Bar-Tal

Walid Salem

Galia Golan

Gershon Baskin

Hind Khoury

Edy Kaufman

Ata Qaymari

Benjamin Pogrund

Nafez Nazzal

Dan Jacobson

Jumana Jaouni

Moshe Maoz

Munther Dajani

Khuloud Khayyat Dajani

Izhak Schnell

Lucy Nusseibah

Meir Margalit

Menachem Klein

Ali Abu Shahla

Ilan Baruch

Hanna Siniora

Yehudit Oppenheimer

Mossi Raz

Susie Becher

Frances Raday

Date:2008-10-19 /


Peace Warriors: On Gender, Myth and Peace

     by David Barak

Sitting on the black earth under the olive trees with her bare legs folded beneath her, she picks up the talking stick. Her dreamy eyes wander to the sky, as if looking for a lost cloud. Drawing her stare down from the heavens, she smiles and gazes boldly into the eyes of the circle surrounding her. "Yes!" she says, she is here to talk about peace. Her fleshy lips part and she starts speaking in a crystal voice on unity, love and harmony.

"Aren’t we all the sons of Abraham, sprung from the womb of Eve?" she asks.

She speaks passionately, waving her arms in excitement, the firmness of her body and the grace of her movement revealing themselves from behind the folds of her dress.


Peace discourse tends to take one of two avenues – a heartfelt and moving emotional outpouring of the more gentle souls of this world, or a highly detailed and rational conversation on the practical and functional advantages of peace. Walking the tight rope of political correctness, I believe there is an element of gender to be taken into account when talking about peace.

Peace is no stranger to the masculine psyche, but neither is war. The archetype of the warrior has long captured the imagination of the male species. From the dawn of civilization to the modern ages of our time, from the great kings of antiquity to the daunting medieval knights and Janissaries – boys have been raised to be men in the image of the great fighters. Brave and courageous, unyielding and daring, warriors have earned respect and honor. This has contributed to a culture of war and violence.

Thus, the natural response of the peace seeking mind would be to drop the warrior image altogether and to refrain from using the terminology and emotional flare it carries. But is this the best strategy? In doing so, are we creating a perfect nonviolent society or diluting the ranks of a force that can fight for peace? Is there not value in cultivating the peace warrior?

My personal understanding is that at the end of the day, a warrior remains a warrior. This is not altogether a problem. The underlying values of the warrior culture – dedication to the mission, loyalty, commitment and boldness in action can also be applied to the making of peace. Of course, this process is neither seamless nor simple. It requires time and, possibly, painful personal and cultural development, which includes the incorporation and liberation of the feminine aspects both without and within. This course of action would be followed by an innate need to return to the now refined masculine values.

This process would separate the men from the boys – the warriors of equality and peace, from the warriors of war and power and reverberates with the words of Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, when they labeled their joint efforts as working toward a "Peace of the Brave."

There is even another, deeper level of mythical understanding that can assist us in approaching the warrior psyche for the purpose of peacemaking. One of the main attributes of the primordial warrior is his utter and total devotion to his ruler or king. This is clearly reflected in many warrior cultures, like the Japanese Samurai tradition or the famous Roman war cry, “we who are about to die salute you,” addressed to the ruling Caesar. To us peace loving folks this may not sound so appealing, but the fact of the matter remains – the warrior archetype encompasses an inner devotion to a higher power. Feel as we may about hierarchy, this adherence to the leader can and should be used to rechannel the warrior energy towards peace.

Israel is clearly going through what is arguably its most critical leadership crisis ever. The country is run by the warrior generals rather than the diplomat kings. This is also apparent in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, where wartime hero McCain’s promise to win the war is confronted by the more majestic call of Obama to bring the boys back home.

In ancient times and in the myths of men, there are stories of war and suffering but also legends of peace and prosperity. In these tales, the noblest of all kings were those who understood the limits of war and knew when to call back the troops and let peace prevail. From this point of view, the problem of peace is actually a problem of leadership. In more mythical language – there is a need for a king that will “call the warriors home.”

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