Sometimes the possibility for peace in the Holy Land seems nearly impossible. In the last few weeks, the stories of suffering and death in Gaza have become overwhelming. As I write this, the Palestinian death toll is over 1000. Many of the dead and injured are civilians—the elderly, women and children.
The Israeli death toll was 30, comprised mostly of soldiers during the Gaza incursion.
These are very dark days indeed.
In 2007, I traveled in the Holy Land with a group of ELCA churchwide employees. It was an eye-opening experience. I was shocked at the difficulties that the average Palestinian people experience daily—waiting in long lines at checkpoints, struggling to keep their homes from being bulldozed, often cut off from their farms and family by Israel’s security wall and off-limit roads. While we did not go into Gaza, we met with UN humanitarian workers in Jerusalem and they told us about the unemployment and poverty in that place. With lack of food, clean water and sometimes electricity, people struggle to care for and feed their families.
To quote a pastor friend of mine, “Desperate people do desperate things.”
Certainly, that does not justify shooting rockets into Israeli cities, but it does explain how the situation has devolved into the conflict and chaos we witness now.
Earlier this month, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton expressed her concern for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in a letter to that denomination’s bishop, the Rev. Munib Younan. Bishop Eaton writes: “Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.”
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has issued a statement on the situation in Gaza, which reads in part: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in agony as a result of the continued shelling and bombing of densely populated areas in Gaza [where] people are indiscriminately attacked, only given short warning with no safe place to find refuge…” The LWF Jerusalem office has a litany to pray during this conflict.
I am making a commitment to pray for peace in the Holy Land every day. I ask you to join me in that work. It seems like peace is impossible, and maybe for us that’s true. But “with God, nothing is impossible” (Matthew 19:26).
Kate Elliott is editor of Gather magazine.
Photo courtesy of LWF Jerusalem Office. Augusta Victoria Hospital, managed by the Lutheran World Federation and located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, has been serving Palestinian refugees since 1948. The Specialized Center for Child Care at AVH provides cancer treatment for children from Gaza and the West Bank. The hospital announced on July 25, that in addition to the cancer patients it receives and treats from Gaza on a regular basis, a full department — 12 surgical beds and 4 ICU beds — has been prepared to serve people from Gaza who have been wounded or injured.