By Tom Holmes
Voices of Area Residents on the plight of Palestinians in the Holy Land and their reactions to an event at St. Giles on Oct. 19.
Janet Settles: I am Jewish. I converted formally more than 10 years ago and had been engaged in study and Jewish practice for more than 10 years before that. I was particularly moved by the gentle grace with which Dr. Ailabuoni was able to share the harrowing stories of his family's displacement; he embodied the concept of loving resistance as described in the Kairos document.
I would not describe myself as "comfortable" in my criticism of Israel. I feel that critique of Israeli policy and practice regarding the Palestinians (and, by the way, the American policies and practices that have supported the Israeli occupation) is -- comfortable or not -- both an ethical necessity for me and a way of honoring the prophetic tradition in Judaism.
Mary Schleitwiler: I'm a member of the St. Giles Family Mass community.- One big 'aha' moment for me was seeing that violence by Arab Muslims against Arab Christians is most prevalent in the places attacked/invaded by the West (especially the U.S.) . Tragically, Christianity has come to be equated with Western militarism. That was a missing piece of the puzzle for me.- Our government has spoken and acted forcefully against other countries – South Africa, China, Iran and others – who violate the human rights of their citizens. The glaring exception is Israel. That's unjust and unacceptable; and I intend to say so plainly, to the people who get my votes. - I participate in liturgy planning teams in the Family Mass. A group of 10 or so adults meet each week to discuss the Scriptures to be read at an upcoming Mass. We're encouraged to dig deep into these readings and find the message that still rings true today. I'll be listening with new ears to words like "Samaritan", "foreigner", 'stranger", etc.
Paul Joseph Schleitwiler, FCM: Rev. Ailabouni's account of the Israeli military forcing his family from their home in the Naqba showed the Arabs didn't abandon their homes. I knew most of the history. This made me feel it. Not so much a change in thinking as in empathy for the victims. I will be writing letters to the media and contacting political representatives. I will try to bring more Palestinians to speak to our community.
Dean Lueking: Loyalty to the continued existence and well being of the State of
Israel does not demonize the Palestinian side of the Israel/Palestine
dialog by politicizing its every aspect. Remembering and acting upon
the Micah 6:8 prophetical call to "do justice, love mercy, and walk
humbly with God" means both sides have both a motive and a mandate to
keep engaging each other in the hard work of peace-making.
My own ties to Jews and Palestinians, both here and in the Holy
Land, date from the early l950's; I feel an obligation to make those
ties count in every way given to me. In this regard, Palestinians,
particularly my fellow Palestinian Christians who live daily with
harsh realities, have little or no voice here. Mine may be small, but
at least it's one voice amidst the cacophony that dismisses all
Palestinians as violent terrorists.
Max Brown: Personally I was most profoundly moved by Dr. Said Ailabouni's personal reflection on the ethnic cleansing which his family suffered at the hands of Israeli military forces in 1948. His mother, father and young siblings as well as his extended family were forced to march 3 days to the border without food or water. In the process a cousin was killed and his father was imprisoned. When they were finally able to return to their town in the new state of Israel all of their possessions had been confiscated. Dr. Ailabouni made his presentation without any anger or bitterness. I went up to Dr. Ailabouni after his talk to say how sorry I was for the pain and suffering his family had unnecessarily and cruelly experienced but found I could not talk. If I did talk I was afraid I would start to cry, so all I could do was to stand there and shake his hand with tears weltering up in my eyes, as they were in his own eyes. Dr. Ailabouni understood what I was unable to put into words and simply said to me, "Thank you."
Wayne Vanek: The scene in the video of the US giving so much money to Israel constantly reminded me of my realization that came about Syria. I could not understand how Russia could continue to give weapons to Syria and keep threatening veto's in the UN , when so many persons were being killed, many of them civilians. How could they be so stubborn and hard headed? Then I realized that is how many people think of us in our tied-at-the –hip support of Israel. All our military aid and also our numerous veto's in the UN seems illogically stubborn and hard-headed.
The other idea that came was the similarity of Israel's occupation of Palestine and the Roman Occupation of Palestine. Both were concerned with land acquisition. Roman speculators were buying up land in Palestine through wealthy elites. Land was available because the Romans would up the taxes so many farmers had to default. They would throw the small farmer off the land or hire them to work on their former land. Many displaced farmers became day laborers, a very harsh existence with early death. Eventually after many unsuccessful insurrections against this unjust situation, there was the great rebellion of 65-70AD. Rome slaughtered the population and leveled Jerusalem under the general Vespasian and Titus.