A Minute to Myself (139)
A Minute to Myself (140)

Gaza and the Manassas (Battle of Bull Run) National Battlefield Park

The other day I walked around the Manassas National Battlefield Park with a friend. As in, I took a leisurely stroll on a cold, cloudless day through what had been a Civil War battlefield; “today, more than 5,000 acres comprise the battlefield park, allowing the visitor to explore the historic terrain where men fought and died for their beliefs a century ago.” We walked around some of those acres, and we read signs that told of where people died and where people were injured, and we saw cannons where they stood at the time of battle.

According to the park’s website, these are the fatality figures: Battle of First Manassas in July 1861: 4,122 (Union: 2,896; Confederate: 1,226); and the Campaign of Second Manassas, August 27 - September 1, 1862: 23,869 (Union: 14,449; Confederate: 9,420). For a “grand” total of 27,991 men killed “for their beliefs” on those 5,000 acres almost one hundred and fifty years ago.

Yes, I know, the Civil War was an important war to fight and win. And so many wars are important because people are fighting for their beliefs. Most recently in Gaza, the Israelis were fighting for their beliefs and the Palestinians were fighting for their beliefs. And we could place placards along the streets that read: “A rocket landed here,” “A man/fighter/terrorist/son died here,” “A building collapsed here,” “A hope for a peaceful future expired here,” “A dream ended here.”

Yes, fighting for one’s beliefs is important. The only problem is, someone is generally going to have a different belief, one that either denies yours or seeks to eradicate yours. What to do? Pretend that only your side counts? Pretend that you can wipe out all detractors? Pretend that those whose beliefs go counter to yours are less human than you? Pretend that all those who don’t agree with you are stupid or naïve or unworthy of thought?

What to do? Fight for your beliefs so that there will always be battlefields to walk through, as parks or re-creations or as real-life battlefields? Or is there an alternative? Is there a way to look in horror at the loss of life and not say “it had to be,” but to say “they didn’t do enough to prevent the killing field”?

If you die for your beliefs you cannot live to fulfill your beliefs. So what, really, are you fighting for?

Yes, this is surely sacrilegious to say, especially for a Jewish woman, what with our history of fighting and dying for our beliefs. But really, we are in the 21st century now, can’t we somehow progress from fighting and then talking, to talking and then NOT fighting? It’s not as if we don’t know what happens when two sides fight, we know. We know that people die, people get bitterer, people hold onto their positions even tighter to validate that loss of life. Yes, they died for a reason, which is just a circular argument with death itself validating the reason for dying.

If we can transplant hearts and lungs, the very things we need for life, can’t we finally transplant those swords into ploughshares? Hasn’t history presented us with enough battlefields to stroll along? And enough heroes who died for their beliefs to honor and uphold? Isn’t it time to take to heart non-violence, not as an anomaly but as strategy and tactic and way of being? Does human history really need to keep repeating itself?

I’m not sure how this would come to pass, but perhaps a start would be for each person to accept every other person on this earth as being worthy of life and hope. Surely that shouldn’t be so hard for isn’t that, really, the basis of all religions (which seem to be used as the raison d’être for far too many wars, or at least the never-ending ones).


Liz A.

Well, if the damn Yanks hadn't a started the War of Northern Aggression in the first place, it wouldn't've been such a big hooplah and we'd still have all our land like we did we when got to this blessed country back in 1716. It was just about states' rights after all. Makes me feel like singin, Wish I was in the land of cotton...

Seriously though, the loss of life in wars is tragic considering most of those who lose life didn't feel that strongly about it in the first place. They're just told to fight. And I think you are correct in it just breeding resentment for future generations, hence the above statement. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness pretty much says it all. If you can pursue it, you've got hope and we all know hope it is maybe the best of things.


Maybe when people learn to hold their own personal truths a little more lightly and recognize the other person's right to have a difference of opinion will we have a chance. Talking first seems like a good idea.


Laura, such good questions and such important questions.

Questions are what keep the peace, questions defer judgment.
People will always have different beliefs, tastes or opinions.
But judging them is literally a killer and make us kill others.
We had Turkish people in Holland. They looked menacing as the men always were in groups. When we sold our car a whole group of Turkish men came to our door. I could have gotten a fright, however I invited them in and yes they talked more to my husband then me but so what. We talked and listened and got to see their way of doing everything with a crowd.
In the end we got to know them personally, Turks became legitimate people for us, people we knew and we couldn't anymore have people talk about them as a nuisance.
Peace will happen when we take a personal interest in the indivudual people. Politics wants us to see them as an unpersonal enemy, but let the people sort it, neighbors in different countries will see a 'human being' they cannot shoot.
When a muslim, arabic or whatever women meet and they all have a baby, they no longer see an enemy but another mother.
Get to know people personally and you cannot hate them.
Let the people sort it without the politics.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Liz, hope certainly is key. This same friend who I went strolling with told me that out of all the industries that are suffering layoffs and closings, the military is not one of them. The military and the contractors that feed it are looking to hire and keep growing. Surely something is wrong with this picture.

JC, the more we can interact with each other the better. But in so many places that mingling is not happening and the "other" really is perceived as strange hence dangerous.

Wilma, when we sold our car in Israel to an Arab couple it was the first time in all of the years that I lived there that my conversation with an Arab encompassed more than ordering a meal. There are many programs to bring youths from different groups get together, but I firmly believe that until the groups themselves realize that they cannot be an insular society will it have any lasting impact.


Hey I read you loud and clear and wish for the same thing. I'm so sick of the fighting in Gaza and the rockets and so on. We've talked in circles about it at my synagogue and most people are so sick of it, they don't care if the IDF does as long as Hamas goes away. And I know they don't really think that, they're good people but they were just fed up. On one hand they were angry about kids getting killed but then they were angry because they felt Hamas used them as shields. It bothers me that so many saw the only answer to fixing this was war. I have also grown tired of each side pointing out atrocities each has done to each other. After reading off the list wouldn't it be better to stop the cycle instead of adding MORE?

Renee Khan

Absolutely Laura and it couldn't be stated better.

One side wants security and the other wants freedom.

Non violence is the only way this will work.



Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Ricardo, a few years ago I got my master's degree in conflict studies. After all of those years living in Israel I just couldn't understand how those people, who really were like any other people, were unable to resolve this conflict peacefully and why it kept recurring. Now people who study conflict or peace studies are generally those who believe in non-violence and negotiation and listening to the other side. What was most interesting to me was that many of the people from Arab countries would not listen to the Israeli narrative. For every other conflict they could validate both sides, but not that conflict. It was, is, telling.

Renee, security and freedom--people on both sides desire and deserve those things. Non-violence would be great, but first we need to work through two cultures that have become very machismo and where power and control are revered far too much. Culturally changes and inter-culturally changes need to happen. Or people just need to be so worn down that they finally take a break in the vengence and try a new tactic.


Back in the late '60's early '70's when Australians were being conscripted to fight in Vietnam, I remember feeling the horror of the thought of having to go to war, to kill another human being, and I knew then and know now, I would never do it. I couldn't. I just wouldn't go. I think you're right, people need to be so worn down that the try a new tactic, sad as that may sound.

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