The Need for Humanity in Israel, Gaza, and The West Bank

The people of Gaza have made it clear that all they want is jobs, food, adequate sanitation and healthcare, a safe place to raise their children.  They want some hope for their future; something more than the hopeless and meaningless lives they now have.

The recent events in Gaza are distressing, to say the least: thousands of Gazans attempting to cross the border into Israel, protesting the inhumane conditions in Gaza.  Scores of them murdered by members of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Many of us have seen the videos of IDF soldiers cheering when a sniper shoots a protestor.  We’ve seen people in Israel celebrating the slaughter of their Palestinian neighbors.

This whole situation is disturbing on multiple levels.

For one, many Jews (not all Jews) are seeing and treating their Palestinian cousins as animals: celebrating their deaths, taking their land, murdering and imprisoning those who resist or protest, giving no credence whatsoever to any of the concerns and voices being raised in protest to how Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli State, blind to the injustices that they themselves are visiting upon their neighbors.  They’ve become indistinguishable from the genocidal regimes and individuals that were responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of Jews in WWII (and before).

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Of Walls and of Mustafa Aslan

I never met Mustafa Aslan, but I know the people of Israel and Palestine – Christians, Jews, Muslims and Druze alike. Good people. People filled with compassion and faith. People with so much to offer for the benefit of their neighbors and the world as a whole. People who want peace, and through peace, a better life for them, their children, and their people.

Mustafa Aslan

Mustafa Aslan, age 24, was a champion boxer is Palestine, and coached many children and teens there who were  interested in boxing.

He was shot dead last week in an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) raid, part of Israel’s massive effort to find the three Israeli teens who disappeared on June 12th while traveling within the Gush Etzion block of settlements near Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Given that there is no solid evidence as to the fate or location of these teens at the moment (nor even who kidnapped them) the IDF’s operations are not about finding the three teenagers, at least not any more:  It has become a vendetta: a campaign of revenge and collective punishment, terrorizing a largely defenseless and submissive population.

So far, from what I can tell (as this incident, particularly with regard to the IDF’s actions, is hardly mentioned in the US Media), at least 5 Palestinians have been killed by IDF forces in this “search.”

Many of my Palestinian friends, the West Bank’s Palestinian political leadership, the United Nations, US Leadership, and many in Jews as well, are universal in unequivocally condemning the disappearances.  All of them also call for restraint on the part of Israeli military and police forces in their use of force in their search.

It almost goes without saying that the IDF’s brutal actions, which go far beyond reasonable given the circumstances and lack of any actionable information as to the status or fate of the missing teens, departs from wisdom, let alone international law.  The logic used to justify the actions of the Israeli military, and the shedding of innocent blood, only makes sense if one views all Palestinians as vermin who have no right to exist.

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Standing in a New Place

Standing in a new placeSermon: “Standing in a New Place”
Presented at ARK Community Church in Dalton, MA
October 20, 2013

Scripture readings:
Job 38:1-18, 24-30, 34-5 and 42:1-6 (from “The Message”),
Luke 18:18-25  
(from “The Message”)

A Prologue…

I held up a card with one word in large block letters on each side, as follows…

RED         GREEN

and then said (more or less)…

All of us can see one side of this card, but not the other.  Most of you see Green, the rest of us see Red.   Each of you can appreciate part of what this card is, but not the whole thing.  You can see one aspect of its truth, but not all of it.  What you see depends on where you are sitting, but you cannot appreciate all that this card is without your changing positions or my rotating the card – there has to be movement of some sort.  Bear this in mind as you hear this message…

Please pray with me…

Lord, open our eyes that we may see the truth you have for us here today; place in our hands and hearts the wisdom and courage to follow your Truth wherever it may lead us, and so come to a deeper appreciation of your Gospel from a new perspective. Open my mouth, Lord, that I may be a faithful witness to your Gospel, that the eyes of our hearts might be opened, and that your love for all of us, your children, is made manifest.  Prepare our hearts to share your gospel with all we whom encounter today, and in the days ahead.  Amen.

The Message…

I recently visited a dear friend, Carolyn, and we began talking about my ideas for this week’s sermon.  This in turn reminded her of a story, one that I’m sure most parents have run into (at least a few times).

When her family was much younger, they all went to a ball game.  Later, in talking about an event during the game, the narrative that Carolyn related to her children differed a great deal from the one her husband Don gave about the same incident.  When Carolyn realized this, she sat her kids down and told them that even though mommy and daddy’s versions were very different, neither of them were lying, and neither of them were wrong, it was just that they remembered it differently because different aspects of the event mattered to each of them.  They saw the same thing from different perspectives, which is why their memories of it, and their narratives, differed.

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The Israeli Palestinian Conflict, A Call for Hope and Healing

Aziz is a warm, thoughtful, energetic man of peace whom I had the pleasure to get to know last year when I had the opportunity to tour Israel and Palestine (through a tourism company he helped establish named MEJDI), and hear the narratives of individuals on both sides of the wall that divides them, a wall not just of concrete and barbed wire, but a wall of shared misperception, mistrust, hate, pain and even greed.  If all that can be shared, why not also share healing and hope?

I urge you to read his words carefully and prayerfully, and hear the heart of a man who, even though a victim of great oppression and injustice in the land of his birth, loves all the peoples in that part of the world and earnestly desires peace and healing for those on both sides of the wall.

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