You Say I Am Stubborn

but I maintain I am just firm in my views.  We both have different words (and meanings) for you and for me.  Same issue.  We can’t negotiate effectively in a conflict without defining the terms.  I need to know what you mean when you say “stubborn,” and you don’t know yet my meaning of “firm.”  (Marianne and I chuckle about my heritage traits.)

Talking around the table

Talking around the table

So when Secretary John Kerry brings Israel and Palestine representatives together this week, everyone can argue effectively how to put the chairs around the table because those words are universally understood.  And looking on, we could follow the discussions if disclosed, even to knowing where Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator, will sit.

But some terms (meanings) are so different.  “Eretz Israel, the name for Palestine in the Jewish religion, had been revered throughout the centuries by generations of Jews as a place for holy pilgrimage, never as a future secular state…Zionism secularized and nationalized Judaism…claimed the Biblical territory…as the cradle of their new nationalist movement.” (Ian Pappe, Jewish Historian, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Oneworld Publications Ltd., 2006.)  So the Israeli government today thinks and speaks of the entire Holy Land as “Eretz Israel,” belonging to “us.”

Israel and Palestine

Israel and Palestine

By contrast, that 22% portion of the Holy Land allotted to the Palestinians by universal agreement at the U.N. in 1947, became “ArabLand,” Palestine or the “West Bank” under Jordan’s jurisdiction, the nation of Jordan, the “East Bank” of the famous river.  (The resolution included the Gaza strip.)  With Jordan’s defeat in 1967, Israeli troops have occupied the West Bank and never left.  So how do you call and think about it, part of Eretz Israel or Israeli occupied Palestine?  What terms will be used by the parties and what do they mean by them?

Pappe speaks of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine, 750,000 citizens in 1948 alone forced to leave their

Early refugee camps for displaced Palestinians

Early refugee camps for displaced Palestinians

homes.  Many more since 1967, now displaced by 350,000 immigrant Jewish settlers in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.  Palestinians realize and most of the world stands aghast at any practice of “ethnic cleansing.”

But “transfer” is a nicer word, first written by Leo Motzkin in 1917:  “Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country.  The transfer (emphasis mine) of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically…”  Pappe, pg.7 continues, “…Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians (which) shows clearly how deeply rooted the concept of transfer was, and is, in Zionist political thought.”  He writes, from Herzl on to the present a century later, “cleansing the land was a valid option.” Pappe explains: “Half of the indigenous people living in Palestine were driven out, half of their villages and towns were destroyed, and only very few among them ever managed to return.”  (Pappe, pg. 9.)  They “transferred” to refugee camps and many later emigrated.

Palestinians spoke of what we observed: Israeli soldiers with assault weapons in

Israeli special forces

Israeli special forces

Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin and at all checkpoints.  The Israelis have the fourth strongest army in the world, a nuclear power with hundreds of warheads.  But to them it is only a “defense force.”  As in—after I expel you from your home and land, I must “defend” my takeover since you will naturally want your home back.  It goes back to the “’Hagana,’ established in 1920, its name literally means ‘defense’ in Hebrew, ostensibly to indicate that its main purpose was protecting the Jewish colonies.”  (Pappe, pg 16.)  But it became the offensive blunderbuss that massacred whole villages and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Palestinians have never been allowed to have an army to defend against Israeli state terrorism.  That brings up two other terms used so differently, “security” and “terrorism.”  But that’s for another time.  In the meantime, as you read or hear of the negotiations, ask yourself what the parties mean:  Eretz Israel or Palestine, ethnic cleansing or transfer of people, and defending our people or carving up “the other,” a people and land with the sword.

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Peace Talkers or Peace Makers?

Kerry and Palestinian leader Abbas

Kerry and Palestinian leader Abbas

While Egypt and Syria have dominated the news, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has struggled valiantly over several weeks to bring Israel and Palestine together.  He needs our prayers as do both parties to the 65 year-old conflict. 

Do you ever wonder what God thinks about all this?  I would not presume to opine for the divine will.  But he has spoken through his ancient prophets to the Jews in the Old Testament, perhaps applicable today.  David wrote to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” in Psalm 122.  Amos later intoned: “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.  Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph, Amos 5:15.

God knows both Israelis and Palestinians desperately need peace within secure borders, without attacking each other.  Most people involved sense an urgency before the Holy Land explodes.  Palestinians committed to non-violent resistance to Israeli military occupation 10 or more years ago.  That’s why the vicious suicide bombings stopped.  Even the occasional rocketing by militants in Gaza is almost stopped.

Burned olive trees, Bethlehem

Burned olive trees, Bethlehem

Oppression of freedom increases with more and more takeover of Palestinian land.  Terrorism by West Bank Israeli settlers goes on.  For example, just last week, posts from a friend in Bethlehem: on Friday the settlers of “Birth Ayin” settlement burn more than 400 olive trees in the village of Jaba west of the city of Bethlehem.(محدث)مستوطنون يحرقون400 شجرة زيتون في قرية الجبعة.عدسة:احمد مزهر (7 photos)

Protesting water cutoff in Bethlehem

Protesting water cutoff in Bethlehem

Protests against cuts off the water to east villages of Bethlehemوقفة احتجاجية بسبب استمرار انقطاع المياه للعبيدية ودار صلاح (6 photos)

These actions never reach our media outlets in America.  We don’t know of them.  (Europeans seem to understand much more than we do.)  But we do hear and read what the leaders are saying.  Sometimes it gets too complex and confusing.  Why are they so reluctant to talk to each other?

Try on Israeli government shoes and walk in them.  Our people have suffered greatly over decades in Europe, and finally have a homeland.  Our ancestors imbued by the Zionist dream moved into Palestine replacing ¾ of a million local residents in 1948.  And since defeating Jordan in 1967, our military has never left the ¼ of the Holy Land assigned by U.N. agreement to the others.  In fact, we use our defense forces to build communities of Jewish residents (they call them settlers) in Judea and Samaria (they call it the West Bank, or Palestine.)  We have exclusive roads and walls, and  now have 350,000 of our people there and  200,000  in East Jerusalem.  Of course we have had to take some of their homes and lands.  So yes, we have enemies. 

They want their land back, not in Israel, but in Judea and Samaria.  They want us to to leave, to repatriate or compensate families for the land and homes we took.  The intend to return to their homes and lands.  They want our military occupation ended, our settlers removed from Palestine, back to 1967 borders when we took over the West Bank.  But how can we do that when the Zionist idea is to take over the entire land from sea to the Jordan River?  We’re now gradually annexing the West Bank.

So our government has speeded up the settlement building in 2013 and we are planting

Netanyahu Cabinet in Jerusalem

Netanyahu Cabinet in Jerusalem

our flag on the ground in many places.  If we do have to start peace talks, then the longer we can drag them out the better, because we will then have  accomplished our incorporation of Judea and Samaria into Israel.  So we will have the entire land in a few years.  Nothing left for a “two-state” solution.  That’s why we will not agree to stop settlement building.  We’ll never stop expanding.  We call the demand to stop a “precondition.”  And we won’t negotiate with any “preconditions.”   We do insist on some things before sitting down to talk, like having all of Jerusalem, continued military control of the Jordan valley, no right of refugee return, and no army for the so-called Palestinians.  But we don’t call those “preconditions.”

But we don’t want a “one-state” solution either because the others will outnumber us, and how can we have a democracy in a state where we Jewish people are a minority?  (They are leaving as we pressure them, but not fast enough.)  We’d no longer be a Jewish State.

Now walk in Palestinian sandals.  Yes we resist the Israeli military occupation that denies our freedom, takes our farms, demolishes our homes, and imprisons our children.  But we do it with non-violent protests.  Yes, our kids get frustrated and throw stones at tanks and soldiers armed with automatic rifles.  They get imprisoned, for long periods without charges in “administrative detention” in Israeli jails.

So since the just basis for negotiations is returning to the 1967 “green line borders”, why would we agree to Israelis building more and more settlements, taking over more of our land, while talks are going on to return some of these lands to us?  It doesn’t make sense.  They can drag talks out forever while they takeover our country.  So we insist that settlement building stop before we agree to talk peace.  They call that a “precondition” and therefore refuse to talk.  But continuing to take our land and expel  our people from their homes is a precondition itself, along with their other non-negotiable demands.   We want an end to their military occupation, and return of our lands that have been ours for centuries, or just compensation.  We refuse to negotiate peace until they at least stop settlement expansion.

Does that help you in case you have not followed events in the Holy Land?  To bring you up to date, you might click on two articles from Haaretz, a Jerusalem newspaper, yesterday’s edition.  And pray for John Kerry’s peace efforts.  

Analysis || As peace negotiations get closer, Netanyahu’s coalition gets fractious

According to one Likud official, the party may even split in the near future over the resumption of talks with Palestinians.

By Jonathan Lis | Jul. 22, 2013 | 9:01 AM |  5

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.537108

  Palestinians waiting for further clarifications before agreeing to peace talks, officials say

Despite widespread reports about resumption of talks, Fatah’s Nabil Sha’ath and PLO’s Yasser Abed Rabbo tell Palestinian media Abbas hasn’t made a final decision about talks with Israel scheduled for the end of this week.

By Jack Khoury and The Associated Press | Jul. 22, 2013 | 2:59 PM

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.537220

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Holy Land Earthquake

Guidelines put out this week by the European Union caused shaking in Israel. http://www.scribd.com/doc/154273042/Guidelines-on-IL-and-EU-Funding-Instruments

“A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30, as an “earthquake.” http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.535952

First a little background:  Last summer we visited Maale Adumim, a huge and beautiful settlement (walled-off community) of Jewish immigrants from many countries.  The small city carved out of Palestinian territory adjacent to East Jerusalem, lies next to the Jericho road (the site of the Good Samaritan story of Jesus about the injured Israeli saved by a guy from the West Bank.)

Ma'aleh Adumim, photo by Reuters

Ma’aleh Adumim, photo by Reuters

“Ma’ale Adumim is what you might call the mother of all settlements. It’s huge. Some 39,000 people live there now. Construction started there with a handful of settler families in 1975, eight years after Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in the Six-Day War; it was afforded official settlement status by Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977. It now has a big shopping mall; cul-de-sacs where kids ride bikes; big fountains; nice playgrounds; manicured lawns; a bunch of schools.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/maale-adumim-the-mother-of-all-israeli-settlements/2012/12/07/7a79b310-40a1-11e2-bca3-aadc9b7e29c5_blog.html

BeginThat settlement policy driven by Menachem Begin 40 years ago continues today, escalating rapidly under Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory.  Illegal, it marches forward against all international laws regarding land taken by war.  It accomplishes as a fait accompli on the ground, the gradual incorporation into Israel of the 22% of the Holy Land allotted to Palestine in 1947 by U.N. agreement.  Now

Palestine disappearing under Israeli occupation

Palestine disappearing under Israeli occupation

350,000 settlers have taken Arab lands in the West Bank and nearly 200,000 in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Amidst the rising tide of people around the world who say “stop” (including the U.S. administration) comes the European bombshell.  Here is the Haaretz headline from Jerusalem in the article noted above:

“EU: Future agreements with Israel won’t apply to territories

“Jerusalem says guideline will make it impossible to sign accords with Brussels without recognizing in writing that West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.

“By Barak Ravid | Jul. 16, 2013 | 6:29 AM | 95”

Ravid continues:  “The European Union has circulated a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The guideline, which will be published in the EU Journal on Friday, requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement. The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014.”

Bottom line—no European funding anymore for Israelis living illegally in Palestinian territory.  But even more significant, in any contracts with E.U. countries, Israel will have to agree “that West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.”

This would destroy the Israeli declaration that Palestinian land is really “Judea and Samaria,” belonging to Israel.  One strong country cannot forever occupy and dominate another.  The American states rejected British colonialism in 1776.  It  didn’t work for Hitler, or Japan.  Nor did the world allow Sadaam to takeover Kuwait, or Serbia to control Bosnia.  Eventually the aggressor must face the community of nations and their people who say this is wrong and must be reversed.

Not anti-Semitism as many Jewish people call for justice in the Holy Land.  As did their famous farmer-prophet Amos when he wrote 28 centuries ago before Israel’s exile to Babylon:  “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”  

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“What Hurts Is…”

The Jewish State kicking the Bedoins off their historic land.  It’s going to happen in

Bedouin, Photo in Haaretz by Eliyahu Hershowtz

Bedouin, Photo in Haaretz by Eliyahu Hershowtz

southern Israel where they have lived for centuries.  While most of the land evictions take place in the Palestinian West Bank, this one takes place in the Negev, the desert area of southern Israel itself.  This ancient Arab people are part of the nation of Israel. 

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg writing in today’s paper expressed the dismay of many Jewish people around the world at the actions of the Israeli government.  As Theodore Bikel, who played Tevye in countless productions of Fiddler on the Roof, said, “What hurts is the fact that the very people who are telling them [the Bedouin] to “Get out” are the descendents of the people of Anatevka. My people.”

The Rabbi continues: “I’ve been to El Arakib, demolished fifty times, spoken with its

Bedouin land eviction

Bedouin land eviction

leaders and seen footage of its destruction. It was a shocking experience. “You mustn’t believe everything the Bedouin claim”, I was told. Yet Bedouin land ownership was honoured by the Ottomans and the British, and pre-State aerial photographs document extensive Bedouin agriculture. There is much misinformation. A recent poll conducted by Panel research showed that 70% of Israelis thought on average that the Bedouin wanted forty per cent of the Negev. In fact, they are asking for just 5.4% of the area. When told this fact most Israelis felt the Bedouin claims were reasonable.”

It’s the same injustice that Israeli leaders perpetuate in the West Bank.  Wittenberg concludes: “What the thousands of voices from abroad and within Israel are asking for is a proper partnership between Israel and the Bedouin leadership in agreeing a solution. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah writes, “Demolishing homes, forcing people off their land, and denying basic government services contradict the moral values…on which the State of Israel was founded.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/every-jew-should-see-the-bedouin-issue-as-test-of-israel-s-moral-values-1.535827

What are the moral values on which the State of Israel was founded?  Here is what Prime

Netanyhu before joint session of U.S. Congress

Netanyhu before joint session of U.S. Congress

Minister Netanyahu concluded in his speech to the U.S. Congress:  “Courageous Arab protesters are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies.

We’re proud in Israel that over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades.”

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BINYAMIN NETANYAHU DELIVERS REMARKS TO A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS   MAY 24, 2011 http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-05-24/world/35264020_1_israel-young-people-democracy

While proclaiming Israel’s God-given right to the Palestinian State (Judea and Samaria)

Torah, the ancient wisdom of the Jewish Bible

Torah, the ancient wisdom of the Jewish Bible

Netanyahu invokes a religious past chronicled in the Torah, the foundation of Judaism.  Yet he acts otherwise, despite its inspiring injunction in Leviticus 19:33:  “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.”

That’s what hurts— as Bickel of “Fiddler on the Roof” said: “…the fact that the very people who are telling them [the Bedouin] to “Get out” are the descendents of the people of Anatevka. My people.” 

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God and Caesar in the Middle East

Celebrating in Egypt, AP photo

Celebrating in Egypt, AP photo

President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt landed in an Army jail during a popular uprising of millions in the streets and squares of Cairo.  This despite his winning in a democratic election one year ago.  His Muslim Brotherhood religious agenda did not respond to the needs and wishes of ordinary Egyptians as national disintegration ensued. The Army intervened.  Yesterday tragically.

Turkish people took to the streets to protest their President Ergodan. TEHRAN — A senior Turkish politician called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take a lesson from the fate of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi, cautioning that his performance resembles that of Morsi’s.

Erdogan should take a lesson from Morsi’s fate and accept that (political) power cannot be maintained through suppressing the will of the opposition,” Leader of the Republican People’s Party of Turkey Kemal Kilicdarohlu said…He noted that the military coup in Egypt succeeded only because Mursi ignored the will of his opponents and other Egyptian citizens.”http://www.aina.org/news/20130706131051.htm

In both countries, the governments are based on Islam and seem to have little tolerance for questioning their policies based on religious dogmas.

In Iran, the people elected their new president as the least sectarian of the candidates. “The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has generated a boomlet of optimism…”  http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/iran-at-saban/posts/2013/07/08-iran-saudi-middle-east-cold-war  But the Shiite Ayatollahs still reign supreme as the country spirals into an economic disaster.

Syria continues to burn as Sunnis battle the Alawite/Shiite government of Assad killing and displacing many thousands of its citizens.  Religious based, the government seems willing to sacrifice its people in the interest of staying in power.

The “Jewish State” of Israel faces the dilemma of dealing with an increasing population of its Arab citizens and Palestinians in the West Bank.  How do you maintain dominance with a one-religion/ethnic minority of Jewish citizens and call it a democracy?  You must use force to inflict your will on the majority, with a military occupation. Those outside the “in-group” must be left out of economic and political power. (Though a secular government, Netanyahu claims the entire West Bank (“Judea and Samaria”) as Israel’s rightful land based on God’s promise to Abraham in the Torah.)  Not religious?

In Christian history, we have the tragic Crusades killing thousands of people in the Holy Land, or the pogroms of Europe in “Christian” countries.  The anti-Semitism among those who claim to be followers of Jesus has now been largely replaced by Islamophobia among many in the U.S. and Europe based on the actions of the radical fringe of Muslims.

What is the common denominator to explain these human tragedies.  In large measure it’s religious-based power.  The idea that if you are not of my religion or group, you are not one of us.  You are “other.”  You are not entitled to full rights, or to object to what I am doing.  In the case of Israel, because you are not Jewish, you do not have freedom.  We will occupy your land and take whatever resources we want.  We alone have the exclusive God-given right to all the land from the Sea to the Jordan River.

Sharia law

Sharia law

In Islamic-based governments, you must accept the law as I understand it from my religion.  I know I’m right.  I will govern from my beliefs and you must obey.  I have the right to tell you what to do based on my religion.  Even if it is not yours.

In the United States we have had arguments over school prayer based on our beliefs.  The problem—which prayers would be good?  Muslim, Jewish, Christian or other?  Should we insist on one religious expression and expect others to pray as we do?  Or stand silently with discomfort?  Or walk away?

Contsitutionalal Convention, Piladelphia, 1787

Contsitutionalal Convention, Piladelphia, 1787

We Americans are fortunate to have had wise founders who wrote the constitution with its first amendment which reads in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  So government is neutral.  It’s fair.  It won’t establish any particular religion.  But neither will it prevent free worship of any kind, for anyone.  The issue comes up frequently in this country as for example, we wrestle whether a mosque can be built near 9/11 ground-zero in New York.  Should government step in and prohibit it?  Read the amendment again.

Do you cherish freedom of religious practice without forcing others to believe or behave as you do?  Religious people tried to trick Jesus into denying the hated tax to Rome, to get him in trouble with the Roman authorities.  The tax rankled their religious beliefs at the time.  He asked to see a empire coin and noted the image of the emperor. So he advised, give to Caesar what is due him, and to God what is rightfully his.  He did not mix government and religion, even facing Roman colonialism.  What would happen to strife in the Middle East today if the governments there took Isa (Jesus) at his word?

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“To Loosen The Chains Of Injustice”

Sometimes in reading you stumble on nuggets of wisdom like this one from George MacDonald, 1875, in his “The Fisherman’s Lady, ” page 114:  “…it’s the business of every man, where he can, to loosen the chains of injustice and let the oppressed go free.”

Ever since we became friends with Palestinians during 2008 in the Holy Land, we have felt a tug of heart and mind to do whatever we can to help “loosen the chairs of injustice.”   One of the ways they suggested—to tell their stories in America.  So this is what we are trying to do, since we in the U.S. hear or read so little of the difficulties they face living under 46 years of military occupation.  (Right now Syria burns and Egypt again in crisis both command the headlines.)

Kerry and Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, from Haaretz

Kerry and Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, from Haaretz

The politics is complex.  Secretary of State John Kerry is  currently trying to bring Netanyahu of Israel and Abbas of Palestine together for peace talks.  The stakes are high and time is running out as Israeli settlements continue to gobble up what is left of the West Bank including East Jerusalem.  Some believe it is already too late for a two-state solution.

Unless settlement building stops, Abbas won’t come to the table.  Netanyahu refuses that “precondition.”  But he also has them:  he insists on the complete annexation of East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, a disarmed Palestine, Israeli military presence forever along the Jordan River, and the refusal of return of refugee landowners to their own land despite encouraging Jewish immigration from anywhere in the world.  These are not negotiable.

We can encourage our congress to support the U.S. administration in its efforts to promote peace, but it seems to accomplish little.  I’ve tried.  They see one side only, knowing little of what it’s like to live under the oppression of a powerful and hostile military force taking over your homes and land.  So we in America continue every year to support the injustice.  Your tax dollars and mine enable it.  We have made the problem worse by our more than three billion dollars of mostly military aid to Israel every year.

Change in American policy will have to come from the grassroots, from an educated populace who say “enough” and will vote for representatives who care about justice and fairness in the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land.  President Obama recently in Israel articulated that change will come only as people press their politicians to act justly.

So we applaud all those websites, videos, media commentators/writers who do plea for justice.  (Sometimes the rhetoric gets too harsh.)  It seems like the veil of the Israeli government’s secret activity is lifting— somewhat.  We want to be part of that in a small way.  Because “it is the business of every man, where he can, to loosen the chains of injustice and let the oppressed go free.”

MosesBut also because it’s the right thing to do.  God cares about justice.  Read it throughout the Torah from Moses on.  Fortunately today many Jewish people are a voice for peace with justice.  http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

Jesus speaks of it in the New Testament as well- “you give a tenth of your spices….but you’ve neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  He taught not to hate, but love our enemies!

Sometimes we followers of Jesus come across as harsh and hateful, judgmental of a whole people or religious group.  (Formerly anti-Semitism, now Islamaphobia or hate of the Palestinian “terrorists.”)  As do some Palestinians we met, we’re to love our neighbors, even our enemies.  Palestinian or Israeli, Muslim, Christian or Jewish— that remains as radical an idea today as it did in Jesus time.  Unrealistic?  Perhaps.  But what if we actually asked God to put his love for our enemies in our hearts?  How would that change what we think and do as individuals, as a nation?

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“Love Unites People, Not Hatred”

Sometimes a song reflects the heartbeat of a people.  It is beyond words though words are used.  It touches the soul- the pain of the past or the aspirations of hope for the future. 

Cameron Mackintosh’s musical Les Mis`erables based on Victor Hugo’s story of grace has inspired me.  Two of the songs have obviously touched responsive chords in the hearts of Palestinians as well.

Assef after being named "Arab Idol"

Assef after being named “Arab Idol”

Then there is Mohammed Assaf.  The down-trodden Gazans needed a hero to represent their question to the world:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!”

“Palestinian Arab Idol winner receives hero’s welcome in Gaza

Thousands of fans greet Mohammed Assaf upon his return to Gaza after winning singing competition in Egypt.

West Bank celebration as well, Ramallah

West Bank celebration as well, Ramallah

By Reuters | Jun.25, 2013 | 5:45 PM |  2

After his victory, Assaf was named by the United Nations as its first youth ambassador to Palestinian refugee camps in the territories and in neighboring countries. He is expected to visit the West Bank to perform.”

‘”…We won hope,” said Abu Khalil, a 65-year-old Gaza resident. “I hope political leaders can learn something from Assaf – that love unites people, not hatred.’”

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/palestinian-arab-idol-winner-receives-hero-s-welcome-in-gaza-1.531976

The songs sung in Arabic were written in English, now translated into a myriad of languages  The universal themes bridge the anguish and hopes during the French Revolution, to those of a suffering poor in the Holy Land today.

Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.

Here they talked of revolution.
Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about `tomorrow’
And tomorrow never came.

From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn
And they rose with voices ringing
I can hear them now!
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion
On the lonely barricade at dawn.

Oh my friends, my friends forgive me

(The ghosts of those who died on the barricade appear)

That I live and you are gone.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.

Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.

(The ghosts fade away)

Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.”

Epilogue

“Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
and the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!”

Click below to see the video performance in Cairo.

https://twitter.com/MJayRosenberg/status/349568367721594881

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