Hello, salaam, and shalom. Peace be with you.
I am writing from Israel and Palestine, the beautiful land in which I and my wife have been blessed to be able to visit. It is my second time, and her first time.
After we spend some time vacationing and visiting Israel and the West Bank, I will be spending a few weeks volunteering in the West Bank with International Solidarity Movement, or ISM. ISM is an activist group that works in the West Bank and Gaza to help document abuses being perpetrated against Palestinians by the Israeli military and settlers, and, when possible, intervene.
The Palestinians living in parts of the West Bank that are controlled by the Israeli Army and settlers live under a military occupation. They face checkpoints and water shortages. Israeli settlers often attack people working their land, and children who are on their way to school. Often Palestinians are humiliated and hurt, sometimes they are killed. Palestinians who protest against these things peacefully are often attacked and beaten and arrested, as well as facing teargas and sound bombs. Those who resist in more violent ways, like throwing stones, are gunned down with rubber coated steel bullets, and sometimes live fire. The Israeli Army also has destroyed homes- sometimes because their inhabitants are members of armed groups, other times because their inhabitants built them without permits... which are made very difficult for them to get.
There is a lot of injustice.
It would be dishonest to say that all the abuses that have been perpetrated and are being perpetrated in this conflict are committed only by Israelis, with the victims only being Palestinian. Palestinian armed groups have committed some kidnappings and bombings and murders of Israelis- soldiers as well as civilians. In the past few days, both Israeli and Palestinian youth have been kidnapped and murdered by extremists. Israeli mothers who lose their children to gunmen or bomb attacks don't feel any less pain than Palestinian mothers whose sons and daughters were shot down in demonstrations or died in airstrikes, or happened to get on the wrong side of a trigger happy soldier. Israelis and Palestinians were created by the same God, like all other peoples of the world.
I am opposed to all forms of violence, but it is true that while Israeli people are protected by a strong army- which receives a lot of military support from some countries, including the United States- the Palestinians don't have this protection. It is also true that Palestinians make up the majority of the victims in this conflict.
I hope that my presence and the small amount of work I will be doing with ISM raises awareness to the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and that we will be able to decrease some of the violence. Many ISM members are Jewish and Israeli volunteers who courageously take a stand against the wrongs being committed, often in their name, against the Palestinian people.
As a Christian, I put my faith in God, and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. I believe that God Almighty came down in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ, and that He walked among us and taught us how we should live and treat others. He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that anyone who chooses to can find salvation in Him by putting one's faith in Him. Christ calls on us to be peacemakers and to work for justice. My few weeks in Israel and Palestine is a small attempt of mine to try to be faithful to these instructions.
In the Book of Amos, God spoke to Amos the prophet, and told him to remind his people that they to turn to Him. Following God includes standing up when others are being wronged, and his people at the time the prophecy was given, were engaged in abusing the poor and taking advantage of them. This was and is true not only of the nation of Israel, but also many other nations today as in the past. Oppression and victimization and violence happen everywhere on the globe, including Canada.
God states in Amos 5:24 what He wants to see... in Palestine as well as in Israel as well as in Canada and the United States and every other country on the planet.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
I have no illusion that my work will help bring peace to the middle east. That can only be achieved through responsible political leadership on both sides, or by a miracle.
I do hope to see streams and rivers flow through this land, however, waters of justice that will end the violence and cruelty and oppression. Hopefully God will allow me to put a drop or two in that bucket, if that is His will.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are only my own. Although I will be working with ISM, what you will be reading solely comes from me and does not necessarily reflect the stance or policy of either ISM, or CPT or any other organization have worked with in the past
PS If you are interested in reading about my previous experience in Palestine and Israel, you can view my previous blog at www.livingstones-tomasz.blogspot.com
God bless you and thanks for reading.