By Rev. Chelsea MacMillan, Interspiritual Minister and Kids4peace staff
“…love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:17
“…show kindness to parents… and orphans and the needy and to the neighbor that is a kinsman and the neighbor that is a stranger.” Al-Quran 4:37
“…truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
This past weekend at the Excel: Training for trainers at Acer Farm, Vermont, hosted by Jerusalem Peace Builders, brought with it teaching from an imam, a rabbi, and a priest as we observed and took part in Jumm’ah, Shabbat, and Sunday services. These respected leaders focused on themes of service to humanity within their respective traditions. According to the Abrahamic faiths, people are supposed to show kindness toward others not only for the sake of living in harmony, but also because it’s what God wants us to do. Take care of the “other,” we’re told – the neighbor, the stranger. Jesus even goes so far as to say, “Love your enemies,” Matthew 5:44.
As an interfaith minister, I deal in matters of the spirit. My knowledge of the convoluted and complex history of the conflict surrounding the peoples of Israel and Palestine is limited, at best (though isn’t everyone’s? how well can any of us really have a complete and exhaustive of this multi-faceted and -layered situation?), though this past week has helped shed some light for me on the multiple narratives.
As I learned more through our exercises in conflict analysis, I couldn’t help but start asking some questions in my head that went a little like this: After the horrific events of the Holocaust, why wouldn’t some people in the world (perhaps Palestinians) open their homes and say, “Wow, guys, I can’t believe what’s happened to you! You look terrible and it hurts my heart to hear of your suffering. Here, let me get you some food and a nice, warm bed to sleep in!” Why was it necessary for Israel and its friends in high places – the U.S., the U.K., Russia – decide it was necessary to use force (political or otherwise), to take land away from some unsuspecting people?
And, now that Israel has land and money and power and water rights, etc., why wouldn’t they look to their Palestinian brothers and sisters and say, “Wow, we didn’t realize what an effect we have had on you and your children. I’m so sorry! We certainly know what it’s like to be oppressed. Let’s find a way to share this beautiful land!”
This, like many problems of our world, is a spiritual problem. The tension between Israelis and Palestinians will not be resolved by government policies or land negotiations (though a change in some laws wouldn’t hurt, I’m sure!). The root of these problem lies within our hearts. When we can open our hearts as Muslim, Christians, and Jews in service toward others, especially the “other,” we will begin to change our actions.
I realize that this is oversimplified. But, when we’re talking about human lives, why can’t it be so simple?