I suspect almost everyone on earth has heard the word holocaust. The immediate association is what the German Nazis did to the Jews, gays, Gypsies, and disabled during World War II. I recently witnessed what I would call a holocaust in Israel and the Palestinian territories, of all places.
Two of the definitions for holocaust on Dictionary.com are “a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire,” and “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.” Both of these definitions work for me and this blog.
I have been aware of what is happening to the Palestinians in Israel for years but am guilty of being brainwashed by most of the media, who intimate that the Palestinians deserve what they get because of their terrorist attacks against Israelis. That sort of erroneous thinking let me off the hook of being deeply concerned—just like what happened in World War II. Most people turned their backs and put the atrocities out of their minds. You know the results: six million Jews were gassed.
A few years ago, my wife, Annie, and I went to Auschwitz. Within fifteen minutes of seeing the horrors there, I had this awful thought: Aren’t the Israelis doing the same thing to the Palestinians as the Germans did to them? That idea haunted me throughout my whole visit and has stayed with me ever since.
Last spring at Irvine United Congregational Church, we had a guest preacher, a UCC pastor whose ministry serves the Palestinians in the Jerusalem area. Her name was the Reverend Loren McGrail, and her message resonated deeply with me.
Annie and I told Rev. McGrail that we were going to Israel in late October–November 2017 and asked if we could visit her project. She gave us her card and encouraged us to contact her once our dates were finalized. We did, and as a result, we spent six days in Jerusalem seeing the tourist sites through the eyes of the Palestinians. It was not a pretty sight!
We started our visit by going to a book presentation at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center meeting hall. The book, A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict, was written by the Reverend Naim Stifan Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican priest who not only was born and raised in the Palestinian lands but was a clergyperson who had lived through and spoken firsthand about is going on in Israel with the Palestinians. The room was packed with local folks, including Palestinians living through this holocaust and concerned folks who knew exactly what was happening. I surmised that most of them had a feeling of hopelessness because it seems that so many Israelis won’t be happy until this genocide is completed.
Annie and I had the same sinking feeling because we know that our country is deeply beholden to the Israelis and gives them the money and military equipment to make them superior in the Middle East. We also know that the fundamentalist Christians in the United States strongly support this genocide because they believe that the Second Coming is going to happen in Israel, and they want the country ridded of everyone but the Orthodox Jews, who hate Arabs, Muslims, and Jews who aren’t like them.
What are your thoughts on the Palestine-Israel conflict?