- From the EditorsTelling Stories, Listening, for a Change
Bridges' mission is to create connection and community among Jewish and feminist writers and activists in the broad range of movements for social and economic justice and for peace. Over these past years, the Bush administration's war of choice on Iraq has been a shadow over all concerns, and was the backdrop to our recent call for submissions on "alternatives to war." Behind the scenes is, of course, the omnipresent Israeli Palestinian conflict.
When the phrase "alternatives to war" is plugged into a search engine, among the first things to come up is Congresswoman Barbara Lee's October 2002 speech in which she stood firm in refusing to cast her vote allowing President Bush to begin this nightmare. For her courage and prescience, she deserves our attention and support [http://lee.house.gov/].
Yet as the war now in its 4th year continues, the question still remains: how could the war have been stopped before it started? What can we do to prevent future wars? Bridges' Fall 2006 issue, on the theme of "resistance," was related, yet now we ask different questions: Not how do we resist violence, [End Page 1] but rather how will our societies learn to make other choices, what are other choices?
The wars in the Middle East were not the only prompts for the call on this theme:
• The writer and Yiddishist Ellen Cassedy wrote to Bridges about her month long visit to Lithuania, where, along with intensively studying Yiddish, she interviewed dozens of Lithuanians (Jews and gentiles) who are working to unearth painful truths about the past, and move forward.
• An article by Rabbi Maurice Harris in Jewish Currents (January-February 2007) titled "Peacebuilding: Learning to Cope with the Likelihood of Violence," pulled out a central issue not dealt with by thinking in terms of "resistance." If there will always be conflict between people, communities, nations, is it possible to learn the skills and build the infrastructure of conflict transformation, to plan and train for conflict resolution?
The call for submissions for this issue began "The urgency to stop military conflicts as they flare up (and drag on) in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Sudan and too many other places cannot be allowed to blunt our ability to imagine and act on non-violent ways to solve conflict. If war were not an option, conflict would not go away. How can people, groups, communities, nations non-violently settle conflict and move forward? What are examples from history of wars that were avoided?"
The call was distributed to the community of Bridges' writers and readers and beyond. This issue on "Telling Stories" is the unanticipated response: the contributors of the five essays, and the memoirs, poetry and fiction all connect to each other through an age-old medium, the fine art, the accessible craft, of story-telling.
Person to person, storytelling takes time, in the telling and in the listening. Time we don't always have…or feel we have. We start off the issue with Israeli poet Rachel Tzvia Back's letter to Bridges (she didn't have time to write the article she hoped for) reporting on her recent participation at a South African conference marking the tenth year of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The presentations at the conference touched on many pertinent stories, from second and third generation Holocaust survivors and perpetrators talking with each other, to mothers of murdered South African youth meeting with the white men who gave the fatal orders.
Judith Arcana's poem, "Whenever I come to it," sets the pace for these stories: I want a bridge from me to you, wherever/we are. I want to cross that bridge whenever/I come to it. Renée Ruderman's "The Mattress" opens a window to the story of Leo Szilard, chief physicist on the Manhattan Project, who organized a petition in the spring of 1945, signed by 159 scientists working on the Atomic Bomb, imploring Truman not to use it without fully weighing the moral responsibilities. Historians believe Truman never read the petition. [See Council...