I offer these words with humility, acknowledging that it has been difficult in these past two weeks to make sense of the pain and suffering in Israel and Palestine.
Our hearts have been breaking over the continued cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine, rockets and terror impacting more than soldiers and those who pick up weapons of war but especially the vulnerable – regular people going about their lives whether celebrating at a dance concert, hiding in their own homes, or receiving treatment at a hospital. As Americans, we all know too well the feelings of rage, powerlessness, and frustration when a terror attack strikes. Our prayers should begin in lament for the way violence disrupts the vision of shalom God has for us, echoing the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:37-38:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
I join with other leaders from across a diverse array of churches and condemn Hamas’ attacks.
We should stand too with Jewish neighbors against the forces of anti-Semitism. There is never justification for violence against the Jewish community. Any theological justification, whether an unbiblical end times philosophy that believes violence in the Holy Lands will lead to the return of Jesus or a belief that Jewish people deserve the terror inflicted upon them, is wrong. We Christians must acknowledge our longstanding historical complicity in such ideas that mean most synagogues even here in the US must hire armed guards to protect their gatherings.
And, alongside our Palestinian Christian siblings, we acknowledge the long cycle of colonization and what Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tselem called an apartheid system in Palestine. We yearn for justice and peace, for families to be able to return to their homes, for political solutions, for courageous leaders, for humanitarian aid, for continued understanding. We yearn for policy here in the US that builds toward security and peace for all who share that ancient landscape and honor it as holy.
We know there are both Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are doing the hard work of imagining a shared future and seeking to break the endless cycle of violence. Our prayers are with them.
May we see each other – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other traditions – as created in the image of God.
I recommend the statement from the National Council of Churches:
Finally, we call upon all international actors to take actions that will lead to an end of the conflict, including the assurance of humanitarian assistance. In particular, we call upon the United States and the Biden Administration, even though in support of Israel in the current crisis, to not allow the conflict to deflect from a consideration of root causes of the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. This is not the time for such consideration. Nevertheless, care must be taken not to enable the kind of extreme force that would preclude this consideration in the future.
And finally from Abuna Elias Chacour of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions, speaking from Palestinian Christians working for reconciliation:
Physically we are well. Mentally, we are tortured. Every time a Jew is killed or a Palestinian is murdered, our heart hurts deeply. We want the Jews to live free and respected. We also want the Palestinians to enjoy freedom and be respected with their dignity.
Continue to pray and consider ways we can support those who are hurting, angry, afraid, and sad.
Rev. Nathan Hill