Split-Screen World, by Steve Hyde

I would love to write a happy column for this edition of the newsletter. Our life together at RBC gives us plenty to be happy about, and is a living source of deep joy for many of us. Yet, I cannot bring myself to write a split-screen column, one in which I’m exulting in the dynamic life of our congregation, while at the same time feeling enraged and distressed by yesterday’s killings in Gaza.

Yesterday’s split-screen events on television were surreal and infuriating, in one corner a happy gathering of smiling faces at the new United States embassy in Jerusalem; in the other corner smoke and fire in Gaza, Israeli soldiers, and Palestinian bodies lying on the ground. The list of 43 fatalities I’ve seen is incomplete (the current number is 60) but includes one 14 year-old boy, one 15, and three 16. Thirteen were in their 30’s, and 23 in their 20’s. 

What a tragic waste of human life. Too often, we do not hear Palestinian voices, or Israeli Jews who abhor the unrestrained violence and systemic oppression of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel. Yesterday’s split-screen images told a nauseating truth that is hidden only if we insist on not seeing it, and that is the unconscionable collaboration of the United States, and a widespread willingness to be hoodwinked by the false notion that it is anti-Semitic to criticize Israel.

So here is a Palestinian voice, an excerpt from Atef Abu Saif, with thanks to Katie Akbar for posting his article:

Of course the protesters know that no one will be returning anywhere at the end of this march. Of course they have no plans (or means) to remove the fence. And of course this protest isn’t an attempt to somehow remove or negate the state of Israel. Any suggestion that these are the aims or expectations is ridiculous. The protesters merely want their voices to be heard; they merely want the Nakba, and its decades of repercussions, to be included in the rest of the world’s narrative, rather than dismissed. It is only the hope of becoming a fully recognized state one day (with all its accompanying freedoms) that has kept Palestinians alive these last 70 years – alive through wars, blockades, endless indignities and uncertainties. Those 70 years have turned the Gaza Strip into a prison where everyone is serving a life sentence; and everyone’s children will serve a life sentence too; and their children’s children, and so on.

The protest’s message is simple: We cannot live like this for ever.

It is projected that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Imagine, if we knew now that in only two years, our drinking water, food, schools, and hospitals would be unsustainable.

As we wear red this Sunday, and prepare for a day of Pentecost remembrance and celebration, I hope we will welcome the children, women, and men of Gaza into our hearts and prayers. I hope that we will not forget them, and that we will be filled with a resolve to know the Spirit of truth.