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Licence to kill: a letter from Jerusalem.

It's been a terrible week. Our elderly cat was diagnosed with kidney failure, our newly built basement flooded with water from the winter rains, and Yelena was stabbed to death right over our heads.

I didn't hear Yelena's screams, as some of my neighbors did, but was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by the police trying to bash down my door, in search of her apartment. When they found her one flight up, she was already dead, lying in a pool of blood with stab wounds to her neck and chest, two horrified daughters (aged seven and eight) at her side, and a boyfriend who claimed that he killed her in self-defense because she attacked him. Never mind that she was a graduate of a battered women's shelter and he had three complaints of assault filed against him. Never mind that she was 31, short and of slight build, and he 50, tall and solid. Somehow he had to stab her multiple times to protect himself.

Killing, in all its many forms--crime, political assassination, suicide bombings, and the war against terror--doesn't work. Why not? Because killing ultimately destroys more than it saves. It destroys the victim, it destroys the families of the victims and perpetrators, it destroys masses of innocent bystanders, and it sends a message that violence is legitimate, thereby inviting another round of it.

A culture of violence filters down into society when its leaders use force to resolve problems. This culture of violence--loosening the reins on the use of force--is not an invention of TV and movies (which have certainly overdone it), but begins by personal example of those who influence out values and norms: parents, political leaders, the most powerful nation on earth. What are we to learn when a superpower, with all imaginable means at its disposal, uses violence? When power and violence dominate political strategy, governments are issuing a license to kill, and that trickles right down to us and the apartments over our heads.

Gila Svirsky is a Jewish American living in Jerusalem. She heads an organization called Coalition for Peace. This is an excerpt of a letter she sent to Moderator Rick Fee.
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Author:Svirsky, Gila
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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