I’d planned to post something else today (you’ll get it next week), but the war in the Holy Land is calling for some attention. Yes, everyone is posting about it—and that’s part of the reason I want to enter the conversation. There are so many people pontificating, and a part of me is wanting to call for silence instead of a desperate search for answers. Here’s why.
There is no one “right answer” for this situation—and that’s been true for generations. Like so many conflagrations around the world, it has deep roots and a complex history. Simply condemning whoever started the violence can be simplistic and misleading.
That doesn’t mean I “side” with Hamas. I don’t. I have never seen, read about, or imagined a situation where the death of innocent civilians is justified. I also don’t believe that innocent Palestinians who do not align with Hamas are to blame—the same way that I am not to blame for many of the egregious things that the former US president did on behalf of the country between 2017 and early 2021.
The same applies to so many innocent Israelis, who are powerless to prevent the actions of Netanyahu, even though he is their prime minister. He does not speak for them, and they may heartily disapprove of their actions (as I did so many actions of our former president). Netanyahu certainly doesn’t speak for the many Palestinian Christians who are so frequently caught in the crossfire, or quicksand, or whatever you might want to call the complex situation in the Middle East.
Amongst the many posts I’ve read about this emerging war, one sentence is standing out for me. The Rev. Paul Moore wrote, “War is always a failure, a short-term solution to long-term ends.” I think this is one key place where political leadership falls short around the globe. Yes, Hamas is understandably frustrated with the lack of a peace process with Israel when Israel is seeking peace with other Arab nations. But killing people never leads to good ends—never.
So, what are we to do? People like me, and probably like you, my readers—we can do nothing. We can do nothing to solve problems halfway around the globe. The problem is powerlessness, yes, but it’s also about the rush to doing. We’ve been taught that we must have answers, and have them now, and take action immediately. We believe we must solve everything.
I don’t believe that attitude leads to the best “long-term ends,” as Paul Moore puts it. America’s quick answers after 9/11 got us into war instead of peace, costing thousands of lives and lasting enmity around the world.
So, if we are not to do something, how are we to be? I think that is key. As I mentioned last week, we are all one species. Other humans should never be our enemy. (I had no idea when I wrote that post that it might be so prescient…yet there were already too many other wars going on around the world when I wrote it.)
One way to be is to listen. The Human Library allows us to listen to stories of people with very different experiences from our own. Yes, there likely isn’t such a library right around the corner, but perhaps it’s time to start one where you live. On social media, intentionally seek out the voices of people whose life experiences are different from yours and intentionally seek to learn. Instead of rushing to find answers, learn to slow down, be silent, and listen. Yes, that won’t stop the killing in the Holy Land—but unless you have political power, that avenue isn’t open to you anyway.
What simmering tensions exist in your own city? Where can you go to listen to all “sides”? How might your compassionate connections help prevent a new war from starting in your own neighborhood?