Dear Family and Friends: Being away from the tragedy of the not so holy land the past two weeks has been one of the hardest things Karen and I have done… By Tom Getman, World Vision, Jerusalem Dear Family and Friends:
Being away from the tragedy of the not so holy land the past two weeks has been one of the hardest things Karen and I have done…in spite of the sense that we were able to play a small role in helping UN, NGO colleagues, and news media people to understand more fully what is happening "on the ground". It has been difficult to be away not only because Karen and I left family and close friends and fellow humanitarian workers in the line of fire but because one feels an insatiable desire to try to find a metaphor, experience or key piece of information that would help to explain this awful explosion of disproportional use of massive force and alert the world to the fact that it is basically against a defenseless civilian population. Looking at and feeling the wounds in my abdomen from hernia surgery have been of course a pale reminder of the crippling wounds suffered by now over 6000 people and by the economy and infrastructure of the aspiring Palestinian state….but it has served to keep me mindful of the unimaginable level of suffering being imposed by the Israeli military. Even the American press is beginning to report this as cavalier and in violation of international law.
Coming back this past Sunday has even been more painful than we anticipated. As I have been trying to put the finishing touches on this reflection full scale bombarding of the villages of El Khader and Beit Jala, and the Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem began, with Israeli ground forces moving on civilian areas. We have wonderful staff people and projects directly in harm's way. Then a Peres/Arafat negotiated truce was declared followed closely by another deadly car bomb in Jerusalem. We are used to a regular level of conflict but the extraordinary level of violence being directed at innocent people is so sickening that we are frankly besides ourselves with rage and frustration. Why does the primary supporter for the third largest military power in the world allow indiscriminate horrific use of destructive force! Knowing there will be inevitable response?
CASUALTY COUNT AND HUMANITARIAN CONCERN
As of October 31, at least 150 Palestinians and Arab Israelis are dead…out of a population of 3,200,000. Fourteen Israelis have died in the violence as well. If we described the Palestinian number in terms relative to our own country their deaths are comparable to 13,500 dead in the last month if roving bands of police, soldiers or settlers targeted the same percentage of the population in the USA. The over 6,000 injured, many crippled for life, are comparable to 540,000. Imagine how the strain on medical services has pushed the health facilities to the breaking point. And no matter what the public relations machine of the Israeli government reports about "assisting in the humanitarian effort" emergency deliveries have been blocked and even threatened with destruction by booby traps…again in violation of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions, to which Israel is a signatory. A truck convey of relief supplies in partnership with the UN that we have tried for 3 weeks to get into desperate Gaza has been turned back four times at the checkpoint. The trauma being let loose only lays the basis for more violence in the future. How can compassion and mercy be found in the midst of this horror?
One way is to share concern about what the future is bringing for those engaged in the violence from both sides. After the tragic deaths of 12-year-old Mohammed al Durra in Gaza and then the two undercover Israeli soldiers in the Ramallah police station, I went to our Jewish neighbors to express sorrow for what was happening to Israelis. I expected to be criticized for speaking up for the oppressed Palestinians. Instead with urgency they expressed their heartache for the awful trauma that both the Palestinian youngsters in Ramallah who killed the soldiers and the Israeli soldiers who are targeting children are going to face having so much blood on their hands. They asked, "how will our young people be able to sleep peacefully for the rest of their lives?".