It’s difficult to not behold in utter astonishment the news today concerning Israel and Jews, Gaza and Palestinians. Who would have thought even a year ago that supposed civilized persons would again be calling for destruction of Jews—the elimination of any people—once again, as if each man, woman and child of them were some monolithic evil in the world. (A quote seen recently: “Hitler knew how to deal with those people.” (!)) We even see U.S. Congresspersons and academicians implicitly (sometimes explicitly) refusing to condemn outright murder and even joining in with calls of genocide. The more reasoned hear echoes of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings: “When did the wise abandon reason for madness!?” If one group, nationality or faith can be vilified or scapegoated, any group can be; you’d think we’d have learned that by now.
There are many condemnations of the Israeli government and its actions toward Palestinians over the decades, but solutions are hard to come by—other than vague proclamations “Something should be done!” But what? With Israel’s history of being attacked every few years, undergoing multiple terrorist attacks every year, and being surrounded by those pledging Israel’s and Jews’ complete elimination, can one expect that they would NOT be hypervigilant and fearful?
Think about it. Americans are shocked at periodic mass shootings, but Israelis have terrorist attacks and bombings killing their citizens all the time. Americans were shocked to the core at 9/11 and the death of approximately three thousand—shocked to the point of initiating a vast multi-decade military operation which invaded and conquered countries, destroyed cities, killed thousands, etc., under the auspices of protection of U.S. citizenry. Yet, Israelis lost over a thousand of their people in the October 7 surprise attack (a much larger percentage of their citizenry than ours at 9/11), and yet are condemned for their comparatively limited actions in Gaza to protect their citizens. One doesn’t have to guess what would happen if Mexico, for instance, allowed some group to do to the U.S. as Hamas did to Israel a few weeks back, the group also pledging the destruction and death of all Americans. One can hardly doubt it would be back to “the halls of Montezuma” we would go.
After all, in Israel’s short modern existence, they’ve already fought two major wars threatening that existence, by enemies proclaiming their destruction and attacking from all sides this postage-stamp size country which is not much larger than Vermont. And it’s both interesting and telling to note the lack of support of other Mideast nations toward the cause and security of the Palestinians—even wealthy nations like Jordan (LINK).
After thousands of years of animosities, it would be a true miracle for peace to be permanent in the region; the area that is now Israel has been hotly contested from the earliest recordings of the Bible, and long before—that area of the “Fertile Crescent” long desired by so virtually all groups and peoples with origins there. Would that peace could come to the region, but it seems to elude their grasp … and even concept Jews, who were largely exterminated within a human lifetime ago, and persecuted for centuries and even millennia before, are understandably fearful and defensive—especially when so many of their neighbors pledge their destruction. Palestinians, displaced from some of their territory by U.N. resolution 181 in 1948 by the partitioning of the terminating British governance in Palestine into Palestinian and Jewish regions, are understandably bitter. And that’s the simple version; there are so many issues and elements of history intertwined that it’s almost impossible for even students of the region to understand them all.
While hope for peace in the region seems slim, it is never forlorn; we find that hope in the Archangel’s message to Mary, and in Jesus’ later same message to the apostles, that nothing will be impossible with God. It is certainly tragic that the three religions that trace their roots to mutual faith ancestor Abraham—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—have existed with such animosity over these many centuries. Would that they could find a way to focus upon their similarities and shared philosophies rather than on their differences.
But, in witnessing these histories which have so often led to tragic consequences, we might find in the example lessons for ourselves—that hatreds, unreasoned hostilities and intolerance of persons for their ideas can lead to self-perpetuating and long-lived—even generational—resentments and animus. Would that we sought to conquer by reason rather than force … by kindness and charity rather than violence. We might remember Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and, of course, Jesus—these who had success in lasting conquest of the hearts of millions (and even billions) rather than the most powerful tyrants. For it is in the heart wherein lay real, lasting and final victory.
Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:17-18)
… live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
…For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life for evermore. (Psalm 133)
Editor’s note: Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.