September 20, 2018
Where is the land of milk and honey? Is the Fertile Crescent the beginning of civilization? The Middle East is a crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa, why is the US military so entangled there? The land caressing the Jordan and Euphrates rivers is ancient, with the taste of pomegranates and the lure of salt. Jerusalem is a golden city crested by a hill, shrouded with utopian dreams. Sarah and Abraham, the elders of three religions, didn’t they build a homeland between the Phoenicians and Egyptians 3,000 years ago? This land, now called by cartographers the Middle East, is both beauty and grief. For centuries it is cloaked in blood, a wound caused by white supremacists. I know this wound, it throbs. The violence in the Middle East claws at my senses raw until denial, with its swift relief, dulls my sorrow.
I am angry and terrified. I’m angry at abusive clerics, I’m angry at the canonized Bible, I’m raging at the military brass… I’m angry at religion. Without gnashing and screaming, I will not keep quiet. At Quaker annual gathering, I led a Quaker workshop on why Quakers stand clear of the demise of Gaza. We aren’t senseless, yet we don’t know how to stop the damage. We know the US is intricately involved in the killings in Gaza, or Azzah, the great city of the Mediterranean. Of the many war victims around the world, the plight of the Gazans leaves me heartbroken. I’m furious at the dissecting wall between Israel/Palestine; the cutting down of the olive orchards; the brazen security gates. How appalling is the dust….the thirst…. the fear. The Israeli government has a seize on Palestine, and a death-grip on Gaza. All parties live in terror, the perpetrators and the survivors. Was Palestine always so contentious?
As a Quaker child I heard stories of exotic lands Palestine and Persia. At 5 years old, evocative tales of Eve, Jonah, Moses and Mary mesmerized me. The facts got obscured by the drama. When Quakers taught me about Eden, I confused it with the Gardens of Babylon. When I heard about Noah’s ark, I imagined the boat landing somewhere near Africa, because I reasoned elephants would have to get off the Ark first. I heard the story of Goliath, a giant who (in my mind) rose out of the Mediterranean like Poseidon. Goliath was duly killed without mercy by David a young stone-thrower, enlisted by his elders to fight. At Quaker Meeting, I recited stories of Azzah & Judea, (now Gaza and Israel). Jewish heroes– Joshua, Saul, David– had an endless campaign of war on Assyria, Samaria, and Philistia.
My Quaker teachers never told me that the conquest and murder in the Bible was not from God. I didn’t know how the battles fit with love thy neighbor. I thought God was omnipotent and sanctioned any war done in God’s name.
I find it impossible to include guns or battles in the same sentence with Love/Spirit/Sacred. The Divine’s way is congruent with social justice. Friends (aka Quakers) refuse to fight on battlefields. Quakers live by the peace testimony since 1660. Yet religious teachers don’t condemn the conquest of Canaan. EGADS! Can we just agree that Whites shouldn’t kill Blacks; Jews shouldn’t kill Muslims; Russians shouldn’t kill Syrians, etc.? Jesus didn’t just talk about peace, he embodied justice. Jesus, a brown-skinned prophet, asks us to love our enemies and embrace the lepers.
Let’s not confuse the long journey of the Jews towards liberation with the current crisis in Gaza. Jews escaped from the oppression of an Egyptian tyrant and for thousands of years are looking for just treatment from repressive countries. No one is sanctioned to kill. Murder is mostly revenge and avarice, having no connection to God’s realm. Killing the Iraqis is sacrilegious, killing the Yemeni, killing the Syrians, the Afghans, the Congolese, the Sudanese, the Cherokee, the Algonquin. With war, the land stops supporting life. The biosphere dome crashes in on itself. The US military meddling and wheedling in other lands is suffocating.
Currently the US agreed to send $38 billion in military enforcements to Israel over the next 10 years. Can I even comprehend how much death results in this exchange of dark military power? How can the money I send to the US coffers be used to murder? Are Americans blind? Will we continue to slash other lands with our swords of destruction? The US military is directed by buffaloes, barracudas and bull-sharks. I hate that our artillery and our aircraft destroy health and homes. But what’s worse than my money causing this abomination? The US sells so much in-tell and weapons to others. Unbelievable. I curse the paper that sealed such a military contract.
Gazans are walking the Great March asking for a more humane existence. They have remained largely non-violent. Over 160 have been killed in the last 5 months. The water is scarce and salty. Olive trees, cut to the nub, remember Cain and Able. The trade winds are dry. The land of Arabs and Jews weep and missiles soar overhead.
My anger roars like a typhoon. My grief is as parched as the Sinai dessert. I will not remain silent. The problem is not that Gazans have the right of return. The problem is not the stone-throwers or the Israeli soldiers. The problem is that US churches/synagogues and mosques agree to export violence. Guns, bought with our tax money, are used to invade and to capture. The problem is the US peddling violence, like a drug addict.