Saturday, August 2, 2014

i advocate for compassion. #palestine #gaza #peace #israel #westbank

I’ve told myself to write this blog over and over again. But for a fear of what some friends or family members might say, I have held back. However the voice in my mind and in my heart tells me I need to. And the lesson I have tried to pay heed to the most over the past two years is to give voice to my heart. With that in mind, the following may not be as eloquent as I hope.

            The current war between Hamas and the Israeli government/military has been going on for weeks, since early July at least. How it began? Depending on the news outlet you watch that timeline will vary for you because American media didn’t cover the story right off. Here are a few extremely brief and general points from differing news sources over the past 5+ weeks. (There is so much more to this)
            -Three Israeli boys were kidnapped. The Israeli gov’t took this time to have an operation to ‘search’ for the boys.
            -The boys’ bodies were found. Some Israelis called for Palestinian blood.
            -A Palestinian boys body was found. Sometime during or after his funeral a clash occurred that sparked.
            -Fire was traded between Israel and Gaza by means of rockets and missiles for some time.
            -A ground invasion was launched into Gaza to confront Hamas. Hamas is a small fraction of the Palestinians living in Gaza.
            -Cease-fires have tried to be put in place only to be broken by one side or the other.
            -The UN has tried to set up safe places in Gaza to only have them bombed. A UN school was bombed.
            -IDF set up a hospital to treat Palestinian wounded.
            -MSNBC reporter got close to telling what was actually happening and the network removed him from the area for a few days, he is now back still giving a raw look at the inhumane conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza.
            -Some Palestinians in the West Bank are being negatively impacted by the conflict either through advocating for the rights of those in Gaza and other things.
            -Part of the Iron Dome in Israel was damaged.
            -Families are literally being torn apart by this.
-Today, though as I write this I am sure the number grows, there are over 1,400 Palestinians dead and some over 50 Israelis. (Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC World News, Electronic Intifada, NY Times, FoxNews, MSNBC, AP and Reuters)

The vast majority of the Palestinian deaths are civilians, women, men, children, just like you and me. With each reported death my heart has broken for them and their story. I imagine they had jobs, likes, dislikes, religious devotion, or not, loved ones, fears, hopes, best friends, laughter, favorite places to play and ways to cope with hardship, just like we do.  Yes, I just humanized these individuals who live so far away from us. And they truly are like us.

 I say this because in a conversation I had with someone earlier the response was the usual, short sighted, American response, “They are all terrorists and hate us. Why should I care about them or what is happening to them?” Really? Generalizations like that one are easy. They make it so you don’t have to really think and struggle with the humanity that exists.

The vast majority of the Israelis who have died are military. They are someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister…they are people too. They have homes, jobs, fears, hopes, friends, laughter, religious devotion, memories, and methods to cope with hardship. When the first Israeli civilian died, my heart broke yet again.

As with any conflict, I imagine there are individuals in each group who believe the worst of their other. For example, all Palestinians must leave Israel because of some unrealistic notion that Israel belongs to the Jews. Or all Jews must leave Israel because it is not their land. I realize these are somewhat juvenile generalizations, but you get the point. There may be further examples of othering with negative attributions of each group. These things can be learned from childhood, stereotypes…they exist in every type of culture. They are socialized through education and family learning as well.

These beliefs can drive conflict. I’ve studied it. I’ve seen it first hand though not on as violent of a level. But the beliefs are real and truly do fuel actions. Again, such hasty beliefs are easy and when they are so negative towards others, the beliefs do much more harm than any good.

Looking at what is going on in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank it is so much more than politics. Though I have continually evolving opinions on the politics of what is happening, or not happening there, I am choosing to not write about those here and at this time.

After all that I have written, what I want to look at is the struggle I feel. It is not easy to hear about people dying each and every day. It is not easy to know where I stand politically in the region yet feel compassion and sorrow for everyone involved because each life lost is another gone far too soon. Each life lost belonged to a family. Each one was loved.

I feel first it is so crucial to consider each life being their own human self. They are unique and have such great value. Each life, the worth of each and every soul is great in the sight of God.

If you are a believer then isn’t that enough to struggle with the ease that some seem to cast aside another human life? If you aren’t are believer, does your conscience struggle when you hear of rising death tolls either in a foreign land or in the gang wars in our own country?

It took me years to get to a place where I feel such love and at least some compassion for all those in this world. Yes, some days…some moments are much easier than others. But I have come here through education, belief and experiences. Not all of my experiences have been positive but I still have learned the importance of loving another. My education has definitely included some dark times but for me I know that each thing that I took with me from those years has shaped me in to who I am meant to be.

I am one of those Conflict Resolvers who believes that solutions will come when we become educated about those around us. It will come when we listen with an open heart. When we are ready and believe through trial and experience what we are learning. Also, through faith that though the experiences may be negative, there can still be a good person there. I was one of those Americans that fit the description of Islamophobic post 9-11. I feared what I did not know. But when I got to school in Rexburg I took all the classes and chances I could to learn more about my Arab brothers and sisters whom I did not know. This because my conscience could not sit with accepting this Us v Them ideal any more that Western media was trying to sell.

I fell in love with the Middle East viewing it through three teachers’ eyes that lived and worked there. I took their classes and studied every word about Arab culture, politics, foreign policy, and history, some of the language, Islam and more. I felt disheartened learning about the violence committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam though they speak out of turn for a truly peaceful religion. I felt saddened learning when US soldiers would be killed because it is a life gone too soon, one serving in a way they knew how. I felt torn learning when Arabs and Muslims would be killed because they were just considered “collateral damage”. These people, all whom we travel this life with, are children of God, our brothers and sisters. They are fellow humans in our life journey. 

This life is a struggle. It should never be easy to decide when someone ‘should’ die. When those words come out of our mouths, we should step back and truly evaluate when the moment was that we became someone to speak so harshly of another’s life. Its happening everywhere, but I feel we need to check ourselves because we are talking about the value of another person.

I truly do have optimism for the road ahead. Optimism at least for individuals to step forward and act in compassion, to toss the beliefs aside that divide and serve others. That is one of the jobs I read in to being in the conflict resolution field. It is one of the reasons I went this direction because people who can’t speak for themselves need an advocate. Here, in this moment I am advocating for compassion and love for the Palestinians who are left in Gaza. The Israelis who truly want to move past this divisive life in Israel. The Palestinians in the West Bank with no more than their voice to fight for their brothers and sisters in Gaza.

#palestine #gaza #peace #westbank #israel #foreigngovtsconsideryouractions

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