Thoughts on the Conflict in Israel/Palestine

Thoughts on the Conflict in Israel/Palestine

by Mike Yoder, Executive Director, Associated Ministries

In a recent inspiring article, Seattle Times columnist Naomi Ishisaka encouraged readers to stop and listen to voices for peace in the midst of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. She reminded us that in both the Muslim and Jewish faith traditions there is a belief that taking one life is like killing all of humanity, and to save a life is to save all of humanity. This foundational principle asks us to see one another as an interconnected human family, despite religious, political or ethnic differences.

That’s why it was a special blessing that Associated Ministries was able to gather about 75 people together on Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, on the campus of the University of Puget Sound for an Interfaith Service of Prayer for Peace in Israel/Palestine. I was encouraged by the sense of unity and common humanity that was a recurring theme in the prayers offered by each of the seven faith leaders that participated: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, LDS, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist and Baha’i. Each offered unique words focused on peace and human dignity, and together we created a safe, communal space to grieve, pray, and find hope amid this ongoing tragedy.

As we began the Service of Prayer, I shared a letter written by Rabbi Sarah Bassin which moved and challenged me. It was given to me by Rabbi Keren Gorban of Tacoma’s Temple Beth El; following is an excerpt from it that I can’t get out of my mind:

“It is deeply painful to me and many other Jews to see the social media posts that frame the murder and kidnapping of babies and children and innocents as justifiable resistance. If you find yourself touting the righteousness of your political allegiances and unable to hold compassion for the other’s pain and death, for the families who grieve and fear – ask yourself why.

“And… as images emerge from Gaza of babies and children and innocents who have been left homeless, maimed or killed by Israeli strikes, if you find yourself touting the righteousness of your political allegiances and unable to hold compassion for their pain and death, for their families who fear and grieve — ask yourself why.

“If the deaths of innocents on one side are a tragedy but the deaths of innocents on the other bring a hint of vengeful satisfaction – something in us is broken. If acknowledging the humanity of the other undermines the strength of your political argument, something in us is broken. The most dehumanizing part of conflict beyond the direct violence is how we find ourselves becoming that which we condemn – unable to make space for the pain and humanity of others.

“There are profound questions of politics and justice, sovereignty and security that can and must be addressed. But these perspectives and beliefs should not quash our ability to be human and acknowledge the humanity in others.”

As a Christian, I follow Jesus, who is called the Prince of peace. Following His example I don’t put trust in earthly rulers and refuse to take sides with political interests, but rather I mourn with all who suffer.

Even though this conflict has been going on for generations, I won’t give up praying for a just, peaceful, and sustainable resolution to this crisis. I pray for those who mourn to be surrounded by loved ones as they grieve. I pray for the hostages to return safely to their homes and families. I pray that peace workers, negotiators and government staff will put people’s lives and human dignity above political or military gains. Above all I pray that the violence will end and that conciliation can begin.

Finally, it’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel right now. We need to give ourselves permission to experience every feeling we have to process, even if what we are feeling is confusing and we can’t make sense of it. In addition to prayer, try channeling feelings of helplessness or anger into advocacy, doing something to help in some way, however small: writing a letter to a government official, fundraising, or engaging in humanitarian efforts, for example.

As people of faith and goodwill, may we never grow weary in calling for peace and justice, mercy and compassion for everyone affected.

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