By now most of you will be aware of what the terrorist group Hamas unleashed upon Israeli festival goers and other innocent civilians in the early morning hours of October 7, 2023. The horror which unfolded there in southern Israel does not bear repeating here. There can be no doubt that this is a heinous act of terrorism that has no moral justification regardless of the amount of hopelessness and despair Palestinians in the Gaza strip are experiencing.
Yes there have been decades of irritants and injustices, along with the oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. But none of these facts combined, including the 75 years of history since the Nakba, can justify the events which unfolded ten days ago. I empathize with the plight of the Palestinian people but brutalizing an innocent Israeli civilian population, including women, children, and infants, is never the answer.
And so I pray. I pray for the Palestinian people.
I pray that the Palestinian people understand that Hamas has used them as shields to hide behind and as pawns to be manipulated by sewing greater hatred toward Israel in the months to come. Hatred they hope will fracture the peace established between Israel and Her Arab neighbors.
I pray that the Palestinian people see the path that Hamas is leading them down as a dead end. It is a path hewed by hate and it does not take them toward peace and prosperity. It only leads to greater suffering and despair. All the while corruption runs rampant and new elections are forever postponed in the territories. And now there are these new depths to Hamas’ depravity. For any human being that can slaughter children for the sake of instilling terror cannot be a member of any civilized society. I pray that the vast majority of Palestinians will reject such barbarism and seek change. Hamas has shown it is not only unfit to govern. It is a terrorist organization unfit to exist in any meaningful way.
I pray for the Palestinian people who will die in the weeks and possibly months to come. I pray that Israel take Her obligations to minimize civilian casualties seriously and that any innocent deaths that do come do not foment greater hatred toward Israel but a recognition that terrorism, especially when endorsed by their leadership, is never the answer.
I pray in the years to come that the Palestinian people can transition towards confronting oppression with non-violent resistance instead of armed violence. The World must see the Palestinian cause as not only just, but also peaceful before true change can come.
And so I pray. I pray for the Israeli people.
I pray for the innocent victims killed in this vicious act of terrorism, as well as their families left behind. That their deaths will not be in vain. That one day, long after the violence subsides, ordinary Israelis and ordinary Palestinians may realize that their dreams and aspirations are directly tied to one another. Their futures, forever intertwined.
I pray for the hostages that they may have their freedom returned. That their captors may see them as Allah’s children as well, in a first step towards softening hearts and releasing the hate.
I pray that the voters of Israel see that their dream for peace has been obstructed by a government which promotes a fantasy: that oppression and subjugation for one people can co-exist with a free and peaceful democracy for another. A vision for the Holy Lands with little consideration to the other side. A vision without hope.
I pray in the years to come the leadership of the Israeli people can transition away from territorial ghettos towards a two-state solution with open dialog and respect between these two nations.
I pray that a repeat of the Nakba of 1948 is never again contemplated. Lest we forget the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians from vast swathes of the Holy Lands 75 years ago. An original sin that continues to haunt the Israeli state to this day. I pray for the Israeli leaders of today. I pray that their thoughts never again turn to such moral bankruptcy. That the barbarism that Hamas unleashed on Oct 7, never be seen as an opportunity to cleanse and occupy Palestinian lands within Gaza. That those Israeli leaders can see the vast majority of Palestinians as separate from Hamas. I pray that no Israeli leader ever believes that punishing the Palestinian majority for the crimes of the terrorists in their midst is a righteous path. For there is a war that is worst than a war of aggression. It is a war of vengeance. A war that destroys not only cities and lives. But a war that destroys souls. Hamas started such a war. I pray that Israel does not reciprocate.
I pray that the open wound of antisemitism be healed in this World. And yet I fear that so long as as there are innocent men, women, and children confined to territories within Israel instead of a separate nation of their own that wound will continue to bleed. I pray that the leadership of the Israeli people see that the path towards their own peace and security starts by lifting Palestinians up, out of despair despite any political backlash it may have. Human dignity transcends politics.
And so I pray. I pray for the World.
I pray that the World not abandon hope or concede defeat in this conflict. That the World recognize Israel’s right to exist while at the same time recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination in a land they can accept as their own. A two-state solution is the beginning. But I do not believe it is the end that my god asks for. The Greatest Love asks for greater ambition from us in time. Much, much time.
And so I pray. I pray for my god.
I pray that the anger They expressed in the eighth message will be replaced with joy. That many, many generations from now, after the peaceful coexistence of Palestinian and Jewish states has been firmly established and the twin scourges of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are widely eradicated, may those two nations confer a special status upon the one holy city mentioned by The Greatest Love by name: Jerusalem. That status would make Jerusalem a city belonging to the World. A city of universal significance.
It is a vision that was contemplated once before but perhaps far too early. It was putting the cart ahead of the horse. For only after a peace has been firmly established and fully embraced may an agreement in the universal governance of Jerusalem be achieved. It must be a collaboration amongst friends, not adversaries, that produces such an agreement. When can that happen? How many generations of future peace are required to heal the generations of past horrors? How many generations before bitter enemies can form a peaceful friendship? How much time before the memories of conflict, war, and occupation from the past fade from future generations before they ask “Can we not love them?“. For me the timeframe is secondary. The hope that it remains a possibility is primary.
And when that day comes, when two close friends answer is unison “Yes, we can love them as we love our brothers and sisters”, then they will ask a most difficult question that has caused conflict for centuries. Together they will ask “Who does Jerusalem belong to?”. It is then that I pray they listen to their hearts and see Jerusalem not as a Jewish capital, nor a Palestinian capital, nor an Islamic capital, nor a Christian capital, but a capital city for all of humanity. On that day the leaders of those two states will see Jerusalem as The Greatest Love has always seen it: a universal city open to all loving faiths to peacefully coexist within.
I believe The Greatest Love loves all of us. And celebrating Jerusalem as a universal city would stand as a testament not only to Their universal love: it would stand as a powerful symbol of the love that must be shared between all the Abrahamic religions. It would be a lasting tribute to the friendship that will have formed between adversaries from long ago. I believe this is why The Greatest Love asks for Jerusalem to become a single, universal city. It would symbolically mend the two sides and show their future prosperity, peace, and love is forever linked.
But first must come the horse: a long-standing peace between Israel and Palestine based on a two-state solution.
And so I pray.
I pray that we never stop looking away from the Middle East. That we never stop demanding peace for the Holy Lands. For only once the grievances are addressed, the two-state solution is in place, and peace has descended on the lands where all the great prophets once walked can a discussion begin. A discussion of when the holy city of Jerusalem can be made whole. A discussion of when the vision of Jerusalem held by The Greatest Love may be accepted by humanity. A discussion of when a vision from the heavens can descend and bring our World just a little bit close to them.