"Always be ready to speak your mind and a base man will avoid you. Opposition is True Friendship.-William Blake, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1796
Last week on a campus of higher learning, after a passionate exchange of words with a young man about what seems to most everyone to be an intractable conflict in the Holy Land, he hits me with a left to the liver when he says his brother was murdered by a "terrorist" in Israel.
In my heart/mind I imagined a hopeless Palestinian who targeted innocent people as his way out of a deep sense of hopelessness. I understand the young man in front of me does not see it that way and I lamely mutter how sorry I am and add that I denounce all violence no matter who wears the uniform or how noble they believe their cause and the cycle of violence must end and the strong must be led to acquiesce to the weak.
Of course I was not as eloquent in the moment. I had stood my ground for what seemed like twenty minutes going in circles with the young man and his friend who had been hurling red herrings and straw men, quoting the Hamas Charter and Alan Dershowitz at me. It was nearly 90 in the shade and I am in jeans and dehydrated. I do repent for allowing my impatience and frustration to erupt and as a Christian who honors the wisdom of all faith paths I write this as my Repentance for all those who claimed to be Christian but were not one in fact, for a Christian is to at least try to be a peacemaker and must forgive, love and do good to ALL others. The problem is not with Jesus or Christianity, the problem is that too few who call him "Lord, Lord" follow him in word and deed.
As Muslims end the fasting days of Ramadan and celebrate Eid, the ten days of Repentance for Jews which begins on the eve of Rosh Hashanah Sept. 29thh and goes to the end of Yom Kippur at nightfall October 9th, which is also the day of John Lennon's birth, may these words that follow help us IMAGINE that while Israel celebrates 60 years, the other side mourns 60 years of Al Nakba/The Catastrophe, an injustice that affects US all.
People of conscience as well as cynics all sigh and wonder what will it take to break the cycle of violence in the Holy Land. The violent spin can only be broken when the strong are willing to compromise and that requires compassion which is inspired by education-learning what one has not yet heard.
Nothing prepared me for my first trek upon the ancient streets with no names in occupied territory. I did not know how little I knew until I saw the view from occupied territory. I am the first to admit I am biased, I am on the side of the poor, oppressed, voiceless and innocent ones who are caught in the cross fire of violence. War is the ultimate expression of terror and it is against/anti- what Christ taught!
In June, 2005, I left my sanctuary on ten acres in paradise to fly to Israel and Palestine for the first time with the Interfaith Olive Trees Foundation for Peace . I also went to meet a little boy of west Bethlehem, George of Beit Jala.
His centuries old neighborhood is less than a mile from the Jewish only settlement of Gilo, which is illegal under international law for it exists in the West Bank and not on Israeli land.
A photo of three year old George adorns the banner of my website and he has become my icon for all the innocent ones caught in the crossfire of violence any where.
Three year old George stood in the rubble of what had been his bedroom the night before the Israeli army blew it wide open. The shrapnel read 'Made in USA' and was delivered by American made Apache helicopters.
Israeli forces had retaliated against a few hopeless militants who had infiltrated George's neighborhood to snipe into the illegal settlement of Gilo and had fired from a spot around a curve and up a hill from George's home.
The moment I saw that photo of George-two years before I first met him in June, 2005- my heart or what some people may call their conscience said "DO SOMETHING!"
What could I possibly do, I wondered, but I did make a copy of the photo, put it in a frame and placed it upon the altar [a bar high table] in the upper room of my home. Dozens of times a day, I still stop and gaze into the eyes of that little boy of Bethlehem and wonder what it will take to end the insane cycle for everyone is hurting and most especially the children. George, his mother and younger sister suffer with PTSD as does most of the population. The father cannot find employment at his trade for the economy has dried up in the little town of Bethlehem.
I vowed to myself and then out loud to George that I would dedicate the rest of my life to doing all I could think of to help bring about the end of the occupation of Palestine and that is the only way Israel will be safe and secure.
Of course I had no clue as to how much of an 'impossible mission' I had accepted. But, every day I persist to look into George of Beit Jala's eyes and I also sigh deeply. And a sigh can be a prayer deeper and more meaningful than words.