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Heart's Prayer for the Middle East

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Today my thoughts are with the many Palestinian and Israeli activists who’ve been working for peace in the Middle East over these past decades, often at great personal cost to themselves in family relationships and social opportunity. From this Jew, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service.

My prayer is that this latest round of violence will be a seed for a real and lasting peace agreement, and the beginning of a highest-level commitment to the generations of dedicated work it will take to cleanse the people of their hate for one another.

As the dominant power in this conflict, I see Israel as responsible for taking the lead here. Israel needs to acknowledge its’ wrongdoing and commit to an agreement with Palestine that does NOT involve maintaining the occupation or keeping full control of all the best land, water resources, roads, airspace, and everything else a Palestinian State would need to thrive. An agreement that treats Palestinians as equally worthy human beings within the territory, and finds a way to justice for the refugees of the Palestinian diaspora.

“But”, I hear a chorus of conservative Jewish voices saying: “Israel should be only for Jews like Daddy God promised in the Magic Book.” Too bad. Time to grow up and learn to share. Our collective human history is more complicated than prophecy. Israel is sacred land to many faiths and other people were living on it for thousands of years before 1948, before this land was handed over to the Jews by Colonialist Britain which had no right to it anyway. No roots in it, no thought for the nuances of culture and history, no care for the rippling consequences of carving it up like a hunk of roast beef. You can’t give what’s not yours in the first place.

As Jews, we should know what it feels like. On occasions like this, I still can’t believe that lesson hasn’t sunk in. I understand that to be Jewish is to be in a state of post-traumatic stress. Our natural inclination is to defend our little island and kill anyone who threatens us. Nor are we over our victimhood - we who crave, finally, some security for ourselves after such a long time wandering and suffering so much brutality. It is an explanation, but cannot be an excuse for our shameful behavior.

Healing looks like standing up tall as survivors and beacons of peace for the world. It looks like being agents of peace for all the people of this Earth, not just ourselves. It does not look like projecting our trauma outward to continue the cycle of death and destruction into infinity, or until it kills every last one of us.

I want out. Don’t you?

Israel fears a powerful Palestinian state. So they should, after the rain of horrors they’ve visited upon the Palestinians since Israel became Israel. Netanyahu’s government, a war-mongering right-wing propaganda machine, is unlikely to change tack in any way that isn’t forced by the international community. International pressure is needed now to stop the bleeding of this outbreak and demand an end to official apartheid policies, but it is not a final step to long-term peace.

My prayer is that all Jews will - out of desperation or whatever it takes - grow to understand that there’s no way to “win” this “war” with more violence, and that Israelis will vote in a government willing to try a different way. I wish for all Jews to nurture a hunger for peace inside, even at the cost of what they may perceive to be personal sacrifice.

I know there are many Jews who already feel this way. I send power to the Jews choosing to work through their own ancestral pain responsibly and come together in understanding of the Other, rejecting the path of vengeance despite all pressure to succumb to it.

My prayer is that the extremist influence of Hamas will wane as a natural consequence of Palestinians feeling the lifting of the weight of Israeli boots off their necks. Hamas is an outgrowth of the desperation produced by Israeli oppression. Take the pressure off, apply the medicine of freedom and social support for human needs, it will take time and patience but we will see Hamas deflate as a result. We will see more Palestinians choose better options, when there are better options to choose.

I know there are many Palestinian Arabs already choosing non-violence in their fight for freedom. I send power to the Palestinians choosing to work through their own ancestral pain responsibly and come together in understanding of the Other, rejecting the path of vengeance despite all pressure to succumb to it.

Deep gratitude again to those working for peace over these many years. Power and blessings to your precious way. I pray that your experience will be honored, that you will be welcomed in as leaders at all levels of government and civil society to craft a new era of peace and togetherness between our two communities.

Children of Isaac and Children of Ishmael, sons of Abraham, we are family.

שָׁלוֹם / سلام



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