The Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) is fighting to eradicate Israel and her people. Many have compared their war to 9-11, in which 2,977 were killed and thousands of others injured. As of December 11,2023 the death toll in Israel has topped 17,000, with 47 percent being under the age of eighteen. Entire families have been kidnapped and tortured in the caves of Gaza. Many have been murdered, including children. Even though many hostages have been released, it will take a different kind of release for them to ever heal from the atrocities that have been unleashed upon them, if they can heal at all. All of this amidst a season dedicated to love and hope and healing, brotherhood and sisterhood. Go figure.
In the Hebrew scriptures Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (ESV) I see very little seeking and pursuing of peace in this warring. Yes, hostages have been released under a negotiated temporary ceasefire, but the goal of Hamas and Israel is still to wipe out each other.
“They have treated my people’s brokenness superficially, claiming, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14, CSB)
Here in the United States, antisemitism has reared its ugly head on college campuses, leading to the resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, for the lack of decisive action to stop the antisemitism on campus. Two other university president’s jobs hang in the balance.
According to Hebrew scripture, Israel’s beginnings can be traced back beyond 1000 BC and Abraham and his sons Isaac (Judaism) and Ishmael (Islam). For centuries the kingdom of Israel was invaded and destroyed by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists, and others. To say that Israel is war-torn and war-weary is in no way hyperbolic. (To be fair, Israel has committed atrocities itself.)
Following these wars Israel was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for four hundred years, changing dramatically during World War I. Since then Israel has faced unrest and persecution through the Zionism Movement, the Nazi reign, and the Holocaust. In 1948 there was the Arab-Israeli War, the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six-Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Lebanon War (1982), the First (1987) and Second (2000) Palestinian Intifadas, and the Hamas Wars (2006–2023).
The Middle East is not only the cradle of civilization, it is the cradle of the most of the world’s major religions. This makes it even more tragic—that followers of these faiths appear to do more destruction and decimation than unification and peace.
Many have read or heard of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914, when for a few hours on the Western Front, German and Allied forces laid down their weapons and exchanged the singing of Christmas hymns and carols. It wasn’t a lasting peace, rather a respite from killing and a moment of hope and grace. I wonder, what would have to happen for there to be a Christmas Truce of 2023 that actually became a lasting peace? It would take a miracle. But the seasons of Chanukah and Christmas are all about miracles!
We all have our wars to fight. Some are internal, some external. We fight within ourselves to do no evil, rather good. We fight with others over greed, differing opinions, and, sadly, over our differences in color, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and even our various faiths. What can any of us do to change this? We can do a lot. Most of it falls under the umbrella of acts of love, kindness, and compassion and doesn’t take a gargantuan amount of effort.
Particularly in a day and time when anti-Semitism is on the rise and racial tensions are ever present, we need love, kindness, and compassion more than ever. So go the extra mile. Give another smile. Say, “Thank you,” more often, give more hugs, stand up for and stand by the oppressed, go hunting for good will, live with an open heart, and live with open hands.
…and that’s the View from The Balcony.
Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. Randy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Holidays To All!