Exchanging Peace

Posted: November 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

Veterans Day in the United States was first Armistice Day, a time to commemorate the treaty of peace at the end of the First World War. The blood of Europe had spilled in ghastly ways upon the earth and making peace was the final tourniquet on a gushing hemorrhage. One of the great ironies of the Treaty of Versailles was that its terms contained the germ of the next war; the creation of emotional and economic conditions in Germany that gave rise to Hitler and the Third Reich. The way we make peace in the present often insures its undoing in the future. The means really are as important as the ends.

On this day I would like to move from the European theater to the Middle East. There is a story begging to be told and such stories should not be kept waiting..

At the conclusion of the Six Day War in which Arab neighbors laid siege to the new nation of Israel and Israel prevailed in dramatic ways, a surviving Israeli soldier, Ronen Mizrachi, was searching through a bombed out Egyptian bunker for spoils. He noticed a bulge in the breast pocket of one of the dead Egyptian soldiers and, thinking it might have been cigarettes, opened it. What he found instead was a pocket sized book written in Arabic. It was a Koran. He pocketed the book as his souvenir without a second thought.

Days went by and a terrible emptiness entered into Ronen’s heart. War was not glorious. However necessary it might be the reality of war was simply grizzly and brutish. And he had been a part of it. His soul seemed to have disappeared.

At the end of his tour his platoon came across a lone Egyptian soldier hiding behind a sand dune. He was filthy, bloodied and gaunt. His hands were raised high. They took him to the personnel carrier as a prisoner.

There were about thirty men in the carrier and the dazed man was seated beside Ronen. He opened his canteen and offered the man water and he drank it in huge gulps. The man blessed Ronen in Arabic.

There was something in the Egyptian’s breast pocket and Ronen ordered him to take it out and give it to him. The Arab reached into his pocket and slowly pulled out a small leather-bound book embossed with Hebrew letters – a Jewish Torah.

Ronen stared in disbelief. His mind raced. And then he slowly, instinctively, reached into his own breast pocket and removed the Koran. The Arab stared in disbelief as he read the words on the cover. He looked at Ronen, their eyes met – two worlds, two cultures, two enemies – yet at that moment, speaking the same language.

Ronen looked at the Torah and knew how it had fallen into Arab hands; just as the Koran had fallen into his. And he knew what to do next. He stretched forth his hand and gave the Arab the Koran, and the Arab gave him the Torah. The Arab put the Koran in his pocket and Ronen looked down at the Torah in his hand. He turned to the text that read: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One …”

At that moment something opened up inside of him. The heart that had been empty opened and received. As days went by he turned to it more and more. It spoke to his heart. And slowly his soul was returned to him, one prayer at a time.

Ronen eventually married and settled down to build his home. And the thing that was meant to be a spoil of war now sits on the bookshelf in his study, a souvenir of the most important battle he ever won.

Based on a story from The Face of the Waters by Eliezer Shore

  1. Janice Henson says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. We need to remember this lesson.

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