Last week I was at a Benedictine retreat centre on Vancouver Island, for a week of prayer. Among several concerns, I held in my heart the people of Palestine and Israel, praying for an end to violence, for the willingness of all parties to come to the table to talk peace and justice.
The centre (strangely enough, called “Bethlehem”) has no WiFi, which makes sense when one is trying to be in silence and to listen carefully to the whispering of the Spirit. But it is also a challenge when you worry that the bombs and rockets continue to explode over Gaza and Israel. I kept wondering what was happening.
Now I am back in the “real” world. The violence increases, day by day, and hundreds of people have died. Real people, not statistics. People who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time… though is there any “right place” in Gaza? Or ever enough bomb shelters in Israel? Ordinary men, women, and children… children!… dead, because of a war that seems to never end.
And I want to cry out, “STOP! Stop this killing; stop the invasion; stop the rockets.”
I want to cry out to Israel, “Why are you doing this? Yes, you have every right to demand security; to live without fear of teenagers being kidnapped and killed, of rockets falling on your cities. But do you really think this invasion, so overwhelming and destructive, so disproportionate, will bring peace and security? Do you not understand that non-combatants, civilians, real people, simply trying to live ordinary, everyday lives are being killed? And that this war is creating reservoirs of rage that will fuel nightmares of revenge?”
I want to cry out to the leaders of Hamas, “Why are you doing this? Do you really think that sending endless rockets into Israel and killing non-combatants, civilians, real people, simply trying to live ordinary lives, will bring peace to the people of Gaza?”
I want to cry out to the leaders of Israel, “Stop the occupation! Stop the blockade of Gaza! Dismantle the settlements. The West Bank is not your land, there for the taking. Yes, you need a country; but so do the Palestinians. And unless you discover how two peoples can live side by side then you will continue to bring destruction down on everyone. Why will you not recognize the right of Palestine to exist within internationally recognized borders?”
And I want to cry out to the leaders of Hamas, “Change your constitution and your rhetoric – endlessly calling out for the destruction of Israel is an act of violence, and will only create a fierce reaction, rooted in fear and anger. Why will you not recognize the right of Israel to exist within internationally recognized borders?”
I want to cry out to the international community, “All states and leaders should be equally subject to the requirements of international law, without exception, including Israel and Palestine. Why can you not be even-handed and consistent for the sake of justice?”
I want to cry out to my own government, “Stop being so one-sided in your assessment of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. It’s far too simplistic to publicly blame only one side for all that has gone wrong; instead, recognize the complexity of what is happening. Seek justice; work for peace.”
And I want to cry out to all the people who watch the news and either do nothing or point fingers at those whose opinions they disagree with. Enough. The world needs you to take a stand for peace and justice, to recognize that fellow human beings – both Israeli and Palestinian – are suffering. We must all do what we can – however simple – to end this cycle of violence.
Why do I cry out?
Because I dream of Israelis and Palestinians sitting down to engage in serious negotiations, not engaging in blame games, not trying to win a public relations and propaganda war, but seriously taking concrete steps towards a peaceful and just end of the conflicts that have ripped this land apart for so many years, so that ordinary people, on all sides of every border, will be free to work and laugh and cry, to build homes and families, and to know the great gift of peace.
What effect can my words have? Probably nothing – but silence is not an option when the bombs and rockets are falling, when innocent people are being killed. And so I cry out; and I continue to pray.
[Photos: #1): A doll lies on the rubble of a destroyed building on July 11, 2014, following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. Photo by Marco Bottelli. Copyright Demotix. #2):"Iron Dome in Operation Protective Edge" by Israel Defense Forces, (CC BY 2.0).]
This article was originally published at: http://www.garypaterson.ca/2014/07/23/stop/