Seeking peacemaking conversations in midst of Hamas war | Commentary


With a sad and confused heart, like so many of you, I’ve been watching with great pain the Hamas terrorist-ignited war against Israel. I detest all war, always brought about by terrorists, tyrants, or religious fanatics who thrive on separating humanity for a sinister purpose for power. Each day we watch, we see the destruction of innocent citizens, young and old, and soldiers, many taken to their deaths or lasting suffering from grave physical or emotional injuries. We wince when we see the vast destruction of lands where people lived, good people — Israelis and Palestinians who do not support Hamas’s horrific violence — wishing for peace.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been researching and writing three nonfiction books about my Czech Jewish father, Dr. O.A. Holzer, who lost his parents, grandmother, and 41 other relatives in the Holocaust. As I saw over the last few weeks on every media platform the Hamas-caused carnage of innocent Israelis, I thought of my father and how he would have felt if he had been alive to see this new horror. As a physician, Dad was also a humanitarian. After he’d been a refugee through five continents during the war, he and his young family, me included, settled in Indialantic.

I watched my Dad live out his father’s last wish that he not use his profession of curing to garner wealth but that he help suffering humanity. Dad spent his life helping people live their best lives in the peace and protections afforded to us Americans and others fleeing violence who come here like he did for safety and freedom.

In the 1960s, when he and my mother traveled to Germany on vacation, I asked if it was hard to go to a country that had birthed the heinous Nazi movement that killed so many in his family. His response: “Not all Germans were bad or responsible for what happened.” I believe if he were alive, Dad would have felt strongly that Israel had a right to defend itself and survive as a State.

Also, when a two-state solution was proposed long ago, Dad believed that a representative Gazan government made up of a representative, caring, Palestinian-driven government who all recognized Israel’s right to exist was the proper approach to finding long-lasting peace. I believe that his heart would go out to the innocent Palestinian population caught in a war brought on by Hamas, and he would want humanitarian aid and goodwill towards them at this time.

And to add to my wish for goodwill, my mother, Ruth Alice (Lequear) Holzer, born in China to American Christian missionaries, taught me that we are one humanity meant to love and care for one another, regardless of race, religion, culture, gender, or heritage differences. Mom was a peacenik. In my research for my fourth upcoming book about her life, I learned not only had my father’s family been persecuted, but so had my people on my mom’s side. Our earliest arrivals to what we know now as America came in the mid-1600s to what became much later New York City, seeking peace from religious persecution. Keeping with my peacenik genes, I found online a newspaper clipping showing Mom reading a poem, “I Hate War,” at a peace rally in 1936 at Bridgewater College in Virginia. She later told me, “In the end, God will judge all men and women by their actions, not their words.” It is time for us all to act with compassion towards one another.

I know there are no easy answers to how to talk to one another and provide support during this time of a war that never should have happened. So much bloodshed in the war we watch daily has already occurred. But in this community that has risen to the occasion so many times to show our hearts, it is time again to join together, discuss how we can respect each other regardless of our differences, and show the world we are a community of true peace.

Joanie Holzer Schirm is an Orlando nonfiction author and community activist. She is a member of the Central Florida 100.


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