I serve on a committee with the Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN), which builds relationships between congregations and groups in Gaza that are doing wonderful work in their communities.
Last Sunday morning, I saw a photo of complete devastation in the city of a young man whom my congregation has built a relationship with over the past few years. This young man is an incredibly friendly and talented person who is impossible not to like. I was alarmed by the photo I saw and texted him immediately, inquiring about his well-being.
He responded within a few minutes, letting me know that he was all right, but two of his friends had been killed. He then made a heartbreaking comment that I wished I could refute, but unfortunately, I know it’s the truth. He wrote: “Families are waiting to die at any moment from the bombings by the pilots. There is no safe place.”
How does one respond to a message like that? What is the appropriate, or caring, thing to say? Of course, I expressed how sorry I was that he was experiencing this and that my congregation would pray for him and his family’s safety. I wish I could tell him that everything was going to be all right, but unfortunately, that’s not the reality. I know it; he knows it; everyone in Gaza knows it; everyone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem knows it; and everyone familiar with the plight of the Palestinian people over the past century knows it.
I had also planned to participate in a Zoom call on Saturday morning with a wonderful man who is a member of the very small Christian community in Gaza. He is a dynamic and wise leader, who has dedicated his life to serving both Christians and Muslims in his community. He sent our group an email saying that he needed to cancel the meeting, because the violence had broken out, and it was not safe.
Several of us have tried to contact him in recent days, but we have been unable to reach him. I am hopeful that this is simply because Israel has cut off all of the electricity from Gaza and that his phone and computers are out of energy, but at this point I have no idea about his well-being. He is one of the most caring, interesting and honest people I have ever met.
While the heinous violence carried out by Hamas on hundreds of Israeli civilians is rightly looked on with horror, disgust and outrage in Washington, D.C., London and Paris, I fear that this beginning of the slaughter of civilians in Gaza by the Israeli military will be met with a collective yawn or, even worse, enthusiastic support by most Americans and Europeans.
As a Palestinian-American, whose father’s family was permanently exiled from their home in 1948, I cry out on behalf of the millions of people in Gaza, who are on the verge of absolute catastrophe.
As a follower of Christ, I must insist on the full humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis and work for justice, peace and reconciliation. I pray that, somehow, disaster can be averted and that both Palestinians and Israelis can be liberated from this horrific cycle of oppression, hate and violence.
This article was originally published by Mennonite Church USA. Used with permission.