Today I rose bright and early to attend the 7 AM meeting of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace ( http://icujp.org/). As usual, I'm glad I went. I was awakened from my complacency!
Rabbi Haim Beliak gave the reflection and told us he has joined the Fast for Gaza, an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of the following goals:
1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;
2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;
3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties - including Hamas - in order to end the blockade;
4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict. (See http://fastforgaza.net/)
Talk about synchronicity! On Wednesday, Janet asked me to record a story I'd written about a Gazan teenager named Yousef Bashir who lived with his family in Gaza in a house taken over by Israeli soldiers in 2000. Yousef told me his story orally and I gave it a bit of literary polish (without changing any details). Here's what happened:
While saying goodbye to some UN aid workers, Yousef, a 16-year-old whose passion was soccer, was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier. He was taken to a Gazan hospital where there was little hope he would ever walk, much less play soccer, again. His father managed to arrange for Yousef to go to an Israeli hospital, where he received excellent care and was able to regain use of his legs (although the bullet remained lodged in his spine).
During this recovery period, Yousef's attitude gradually changed: "I came to see that one Israeli soldier had shot me, but many Israeli people had worked to save my life."
Instead of becoming bitter or angry, he decided to work for peace and reconciliation and became involved with the "Seeds of Peace" camp.
It's an amazing story about the power of forgiveness. If you want to read it in its entirety, please email me at my new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Janet wants to include this story in the second edition of a Quaker book for children and teens which is called "Lighting Candles in the Dark" in the English version and "The Power of Goodness" in the Chechen version. With support from the educators in Russia and Chechnya, she has published a trilingual version of this book in English, Russian, and Chechen that is being used to teach alternatives to violence in Chechen and Russian schools.
I plan to read this story at the next Friday meeting of ICUJP. I also plan to fast in support of the people of Gaza. It seems the least I can do given the suffering that the Gazan people have to endure.
In case you hadn't heard, on June 30 a ship loaded with humanitarian aid was stopped in international waters, its cargo confiscated, and its crew arrested by the Israeli navy. The crew included Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and 21 human rights workers from 11 countries. If you like to express support for these brave men and women whose only crime is to want to help the beseiged Gazans, go to: http://freegaza.org/en/home/hope-fleet-news/976-israel-attacks-justice-boat-kidnaps-human-rights-workers-confiscates-medicine-toys-and-olive-trees
As you read this, it is worth remembering that over 1200 Gazans were massacred during the recent invasion of Gaza, billions of dollars of destruction was done to homes and infrastructure (with America-made weapons), and people (including children) are dying prematurely because critical supplies are being withheld. As Rabbi Beliak reminded us, the Torah commands us: "Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being spilled" (Leviticus 19:16).