Gaza: what is the right thing to do?

By Lauren R. Stanley

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And Gaza. And all of Israel and Palestine.

For the Lord alone knows what will happen there.

In every broadcast, every newspaper, every report, we see and hear the horrific news from the Middle East. Calls for peace are lost amid the explosions of bombs. And most of us are left to wonder, “What is the right thing to do?”

I openly support Israel and its right to exist. That is non-negotiable for me.

I openly support the Palestinians’ right to exist as well, to have their own country.

I keep thinking about how I would react if I were to live in Israel, with wild rockets being rained down upon me and mine, even if no one were being hurt. The very stress of the attacks alone would make me want to retaliate, especially if those who were shooting off the rockets were so obstinately opposed to my right to exist. I would want my government to react, to stop the attacks.

I keep thinking about how I would react if I were to live in Gaza, under blockade for years, without enough food to eat or water to drink, without electricity, having my basic civil rights denied to me, and yes, indeed, I would want my duly elected government to do something about it!

So what is to be done? How are we to pray? Because I am not living in either Israel or Gaza, it is easier – much easier – for me to pray for both sides, for all the innocents. Although I emotionally side with the Israelis (a good portion of my family was Jewish for generations; my father’s line converted to Catholicism), I cannot ignore the Palestinians and their right to exist, their right to peace in their lives. And I remember, too, that the majority of Palestinians are not involved in the rocket attacks and are simply trying to survive and maybe, God willing, to thrive.

This I know: Praying for peace is not enough. Prayers are but the first step in how we go about making the kingdom of God become reality. We need to pray, yes, but there must be something more that can be done. I just don’t know what. And that causes great anxiety in me and, I believe, many others.

Our government, the U.S. government, cannot simply declare a truce. The Israelis are not going to back off until their people feel some sense of security. The Palestinian peoples themselves cannot end the violence; their leaders are running this, and have no real history of listening to their people. And Hamas is certainly not going to simply stop – they are avowedly against Israel’s existence.

This particular version of the gruesome reality of life in Israel and Palestine is beyond the pale. Extreme acts of violence on both sides are only hardening the lines and making it harder to achieve even a smidgen of peace. Both sides are wrong. Both sides need to stop. Both sides need, at the very least, to accept the other’s right to exist. Only then can peace be sought.

But again, we who are witnessing these barbaric acts from both sides of the line are left to ask: What are we to do?

Even after much prayer, I still don’t have an answer to that. I don’t think anyone does either, to be honest. I think we are all watching and weeping and praying and wondering.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in the Diocese of Renk, Episcopal Church of Sudan. She is a lecturer in Theology, Greek, English and Liturgy, as well as chaplain of students, at the Renk Theological College.

Past Posts