Before I left home, I heard these words from Rev. Margaret Bullet-Jonas: “Remove from your heart all that is not from love.” These words were meant for me. They have echoed in my mind over and over because I spend a lot of mental time “evaluating” the people and things around me, especially those that I find in bad taste. In other words, I am full of judgements that do not come from love.
How does this relate to Palestine? It is a place that evokes negative judgments on a daily if not hourly basis.
Why can’t I buy a product made in Palestine instead of Israel? Even the fresh fruits and vegetables are from Israel, though I know they can be grown in Palestine. Why do I have to take this dangerous road through the Valley of Fire that takes twice as long as it should to reach a city just 30 miles from here? I know there is a direct route that is wider and flatter but only Jews can use it. Why do the Israeli soldiers shoot live ammunition at teenage boys who are hurling stones at their watchtower? The soldiers know that tear gas will disperse the kids. How do the soldiers get away with bursting into a Palestinian home at 2:00 a.m. to arrest a 10 year old boy and then not even tell the parents where they are taking the child? The Israelis know where the child lives. They could come in the daytime. And the boy would not have been throwing stones (if he did) if the soldiers had not invaded his neighborhood in the first place.
I could go on for pages and pages. These judgments are justifiable. They are judgments about abuse. But do they come from love? Yes and no.
Yes love for the abused Palestinians, but no love for the oppressor. How to love the oppressor? I must train myself to separate the deed from the doer, without letting up on acting to oppose the deed.
Sure, the Israeli soldiers firing on Palestinian youth should be held accountable, even though they have been carefully trained to behave this way and to justify their actions. But who is doing the training and thinking up the justifications? And why? These are the questions that evoke judgments.
I know that anyone can marshal facts and narrate history to bolster their positions. That said, I also know that there are some truths and many lies.
Countering lies is tricky business. It often involves using words or descriptions that are not part of the popular perception, and people take offense.
Like, “Israel is an apartheid state.” Or, “Zionists have claimed all of historic Palestine for exclusive ownership by Jews since the founding of the Zionist movement in the late 1800’s.” And, “To achieve the Zionist goal requires the expulsion of the native population from all of Palestine.” These truthful statements provoke hostility from people who have been raised to believe that Israel is a necessary safe haven for Jews and from Israelis who believe that God gave this land to the Jews.
I do not like the feeling that I am offending people; I feel anxious. I do not handle it well when someone is angry with me; I feel fear. I try to pick my words carefully to avoid such situations, especially when I am challenging Israel’s abuses of Palestinians.
If, however, I come from love, if I empty my heart of all else, I may be able to speak the sometimes offensive truth without fear of your reaction. I may instead feel love for you who may not accept my words, who may be caught in a web of untruths and be unable to accept another view. I need to let my heart lead the way, and trust that the truth will prevail.