Last night, I watched as the athletes of the world gathered to celebrate a common humanity through peaceful competition in the Olympics. Israeli athletes, Canadian athletes, Palestinian athletes, American, British, Zambian, Saudi, Afghani…. so many, many faces of pride and joy. Despite the extravagences of cost and other distortions, the Olympics do present an opportunity for the world community to celebrate.
I also remembered (of course reminded by many) the horrors of terrorism that affected the Olympics in 1972 when Israeli athletes where used as targets to bring the world’s attention to the plight of Palestinians through the dreadful acts of terrorism by a group aligned with the PLO. This 40th year after that event, it is important to remember those innocent young Israelis who were killed. Terrorism exacts a dreadful toll, and is not justified, no matter the cause.
The broken-heart feels deep sorrow, sadness, and at times helplessness. The complexities of the reality in Palestine and Israel can break one’s heart. But to become immobilized is not an option, when one has been among the people, Israeli and Palestinian, who want to see peace, who want to live in their land as neighbours with just, and kind relationships. If one allows one’s heart to ‘break-open’ and not be shattered by the stories, one can feel the pain and still be capable of working towards change. Today, this is the stance I find myself living into: to hold the tensions of both narratives of sorrow and dispossession (The Holocaust and The Nakba) and to pray that hopes for peace and justice will guide both peoples into a desire for community.
Today, I can do no better than to refer you to a blog posted by my friend and colleague, Jan McIntyre. Jan is also a Canadian who served with EAPPI, and in fact lived and served in precisely the same placement as I did, sleeping (after I left!) in my bed in the Yatta EA house.
Today, Jan posts about the impending threat of destruction to 8 villages in Massafer Yatta (South Hebron Hills) and the impact on the lives of Palestinian, families, children and land. This demolition is to make way for the Israeli defense force to expand their military firing range in the South Hebron hills. This whole area is in Area C, under Israeli control. But the Palestinian communities have been in these lands since long before the establishment of the State of Israel.
As an occupying force, Israel is supposed to adhere to the laws of the Geneva Conventions, protecting the livelihoods of the people in occupied territory. I urge you to read with care, and to express your concerns to Israeli officials, through your diplomatic channels and through your own government officials.
It is my conviction that these policies and practices of destruction in the West Bank do deep damage to the State of Israel as they do to the Palestinians. This targetting of innocent farmers and shepherds, children and mothers, children of God, a Semitic people… this devastation is tantamount to ethnic cleansing. The beliefs that justify these actions distort the beliefs of justice and care for neighbor that are inherent in the Jewish religion. Villanizing an entire people is a distortion the image of God in the perpetrators and the victims.
My heart aches for the people of Palestine, for the gentle loving mothers of Jinba, and the spirited children of Mirkez and the strong, lively young men of Shib Al butum.
My heart aches too, for the generations of Israelis who have paid the price for the rage and sorrow of those Palestinians who express their hopelessness in acts of violence. The cycle must end!
Inshallah… May peace come… may shalom be built… may the peoples know one another… may the walls come down… may children know a future of peace.
Non-violent protest, telling the stories of these injustices, economic measures such as boycott of setlement products, upholding International law, and praying for peace: these are all acts that each person of conscience can do.
Follow your own ‘broken-open’ heart.