Mental health issues are getting more of religion's attention
Can we have both a moral and a compassionate response to war?

This is the time to 'find the peacemakers'

In this awful time of war, we need examples of how to see one another as fellow human beings and not in some category that makes the other an enemy.

Israel-gazaI experienced that in person last week when a rabbi I know showed up at an interfaith service of prayer and reflection about the Hamas-Israel war and asked to speak, even though he wasn't on the program with the rest of us who had been asked to speak.

You can watch that whole service here, if you want, but if you just want to hear what Rabbi Mark Levin had to say, slide ahead to about minute 56 of the video. He was making a strong effort to present his views from a Jewish perspective while acknowledging that other perspectives are valid and need to be heard. It was an emotional time for all, including for Mark.

Something similar came to my attention the next day when I ran across this editorial column in The Presbyterian Outlook, an independent publication for which I used to write a regular column though now I mostly just write occasional book reviews for it.

In it, Terri McDowell Ott, editor and publisher of The Outlook, reprints a letter from a rabbi in the Washington, D.C., area to his neighborhood Muslim mosque's congregation.

It turns out that the rabbi's synagogue and the nearby mosque have had a close relationship for more than 15 years. In fact, the Muslims have prayed their Friday Jumma prayers at the synagogue every week for that long.

But after Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel earlier this month, the imam asked the rabbi, as the rabbi wrote, "if Jumma at our synagogue this week might inflame emotions and whether we should take this week off."

So Rabbi Michael G. Holzman replied this way: "Yes, Imam Magid, in his wisdom and compassion, senses the pain and hurt in the Jewish community this week, and we appreciate his desire to cause no further suffering. However, we firmly believe that any cessation of our relationship would cause more harm. . ."

And then he lists several reasons, including this: "We do not want to support the notion that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people is primarily a conflict between Judaism and Islam. Both of our religions clearly prohibit violence against innocents, the taking of revenge, or the holding of hostages. We reject the idea that the Holy Land is meant for believers of any one faith. We affirm the teaching of the holy Koran that God created us differently so that we can learn from one another. We understand from the Torah’s command to love the neighbor that we must first know the neighbor, and therefore we are meant to co-exist in proximity to one another."

It was similar in tone to what Mark Levin said, in this case aiming his first remark at Imam Mohamed Herbert, who had just spoken about his understanding of things from a Palestinian and Islamic perspective: "We share a land," Mark said, "we share a language, we share a history." But then he added a note about the difficult nature of relations in the Middle East: "No one will unravel this for you. No one. . .It's just too complicated." Levin said that when people ask him what to do about the unrest in the Middle East, "I say this: Find the peacemakers." And find ways to support them.

So there are Jewish, Islamic and other voices of calm, of reason, of humanity out there in the midst of the hateful noise coming from so many people. And it's important that we recognize those helpful voices, acknowledge them and encourage them -- and that we add our voices to theirs instead of to the voices crying for revenge and blood. For, as I told the gathering at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church before Mark Levin spoke, "There is not now -- nor has there ever been -- a military solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

* * *


Former President Donald Trump, at a recent campaign rally in New Hampshire, vowed that if he's re-elected he'd keep out any immigrants "who don't like our religion." Wonder what religion he's talking about. Maybe what appears to be his own faith tradition: Solipsism.

* * *

P.S.: It should surprise no one that the Hamas attack on Israel has added to the global resurgence of antisemitism. To provide a better picture of what's happening, the World Jewish Congress has just issued a new report, "A Flood of Hate:
How Hamas Fueled the Adversarial Information Ecosystem on Social Media." Among its several conclusions is this: "The prevalence of Hamas’ propaganda materials online helped fuel an adversarial information ecosystem rife with disinformation and hate speech that dehumanizes Israel and global Jewry at-large." Another source of information and commentary can be found in this report from the U.S. Institute for Peace. Among other things, that report notes "that a resolution from the Arab League ministerial meeting called not only for an immediate cessation of the war, warning of the catastrophic humanitarian and security repercussions, but also warned against attempts to displace Palestinians and urged Israel to resume talks to achieve the two-state solution on the basis of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative." Those are simply two sources of information, and all of us need to pay close attention to the credibility of all such sources.


The comments to this entry are closed.