14 May Prayers for the Holy Land and Beyond
The escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, triggered by recent events in Jerusalem are cause for global concern. Both because of the immediate impact this conflict is having on the people most directly affected, for whom God calls us to pray no less than if they were our across-the-fence neighbors, our closest kith and kin. And, also, because of the way in which these recent events and the overarching and ongoing conflict within that region invariably ripple out and evoke potent visceral feelings and upset the world over, most especially for Muslims and Jews.
It is neither a platitude nor something that goes without saying to emphasize the fundamental right for people to be able to gather for worship and to pray in sacred moments and spaces without threat of violence or abuse, whether physical or emotional. One need only imagine how one would feel if one’s own sanctuary and religious observance were to be violently and unexpectedly ruptured to understand how our Muslim sisters, brothers, and friends felt in the Al-Aqsa Mosque while observing the high and holy season of Ramadan. Their loss is ours. Their upset is ours. Their shock is ours. So, too, is their peace.
History has proven that the Holy Land is as fraught as it is holy. It is a place where deeply rooted needs, intense feelings, complex histories, ontological hopes, human frailties, and the right to be safe, to self-determine and to have one’s experience (including one’s suffering) validated tumultuously converge, all too often, collide, and where true reconciliation remains elusive.
Even as we act by praying for the cessation of violence, for calm, and for an empathy that can humanize the current flares in Israel/Palestine, we can also act here. Locally. Right where we are. We can reach out to our Muslim sisters, brothers, and friends and convey our concern, our care. Without validating the actions that led to the desecration of the Muslim service, we can also let our Jewish sisters, brothers, and friends know that we understand that they, too, are upset by what’s happening (and not necessarily because they agree with the actions that were taken).
The pandemic has left us all more on edge, more depleted, more in need of being heard than any of us even can fully know. Surely, the stresses of this past year are infiltrating and exacerbating what is happening in Jerusalem and the broader region right now. Just as surely, what any conflict needs right now is more hearts that care, more hearts that listen, more voices that say “We acknowledge your struggle” and “We’re with you”. More empathy. More patience. A lot more. It’s what we all need, not just those within our broader human family in Israel/Palestine. And when we need it most but are feeling that it’s in short supply within us, that’s when we need to turn to our Creator. In prayer. In prayers that re-center us to hear and speak and act… with God’s love.