Dreams of Gaza

I had planned to write a Thanksgiving message this morning. I hope you know that my gratitude for all of you is more than seasonal. Underneath my daily work and life, there is a constant stream of thanksgiving for our life together.

But I had a dream last night, and I cannot easily set it aside and go about my day.

It is rare that I wake up with a vivid recollection of my dreams. I’m always aware of having dreamed. Sometimes I even have a sense of dream fatigue. But the details of my dreams usually disappear with my waking.

Not this one.

I was on some kind of outing with my family, an outing with a festival atmosphere. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves when for some reason I was suddenly arrested. I could not understand why I had been singled out by the policemen, and had no idea what I had done. There was a struggle, I was knocked out, and when I regained consciousness, found myself in jail. The first thing I saw was a guard glaring at me with hatred in his eyes, and I knew that he was going to be my tormenter. I’m pretty claustrophobic, so being locked up in a cell was frightening enough, but there are essentially two features of the dream that are vivid to me now.

Already the details are fuzzy, but I know that in the dream I was brutalized and beaten over and over again. What I also remember is that throughout the dream I kept wondering, with a growing sense of panic, why no one was coming. My family, friends, and congregation--why was no one coming to help me? I was aware of time passing by, and it was as if I had been forgotten.

I’ve had this happen before. I wake up in what feels like the middle of a dream, then lie there wondering what it might have meant. This time, there was no wondering. What came rushing at me was one word: GAZA!

Since the all-out assault on Gaza four years ago, the people have lived in an open-air prison, in conditions I cannot imagine--even in my dreams. It has taken extraordinary persistence to get any kind of humanitarian aid inside Gaza.

I wish Hamas would not launch rockets into Israel. Doing so makes the people that much more vulnerable to attack. The deaths of three Israelis last week are tragic, but to say “Israel has the right to defend itself” does not begin to justify the massacre of children and families. The last I heard, 103 Palestinians had been killed, including one family of 12 and 26 children.

I’m not trying to write a report for the Washington Post. I’m telling you that in my dream-world I experienced what it would feel like to be trapped, brutalized, and worst of all...forgotten. It was early morning when I started this. It’s noon now, and the dream is still vivid. And what will stay with me through the coming days is the knowledge that sons and daughters of God are living this nightmare.