Summer and the Beaches of Gaza and Sleeping Bear Bay

DSC_8301 - Version 2It has been a wonderful summer for my family. We have spent time together in Italy/ Tuscany and here Up North in beautiful Glen Arbor, Michigan on the blue waters of Lake Michigan. My last blog post was on June 15 when I spoke on the never ending Israel/Palestine conflict and particularly the plight of Daoud Nassar. I had mentioned in that post the recent kidnapping of three Israeli settler teens on June 12. The Netanyahu government immediately blamed Hamas for the incident, and used it as an opportunity to unleash the IDF , called ” Operation Brother’s Keeper “, on the West Bank. They entered and often destroyed over one thousand Palestinian homes and arrested over 500 Palestinians under the pretext of rescuing the teens. The poor grieving families of the teens were left to hope that their sons were alive and could be saved. When it was announced that their murdered bodies were found on June 30, I was in Italy with my family. I was sad and outraged when I heard the news. It turns out  that later we learned that Netanyahu and the Israeli government knew almost immediately after the kidnapping that the boys were almost certainly dead. A Palestinian teen was subsequently murdered by enraged Israelis, burned alive as a retaliatory, vengeance killing. The Israeli  public was inflamed, further blame was directed at Hamas, even though they denied involvement.[ A rogue Hamas cell in the West Bank is suspected as the culprits, not Hamas leadership in Gaza.]  On June 11 Israeli airstrikes into Gaza had  killed one Gazan and injured two others, one a child. Four weeks prior to that IDF soldiers shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers.So after weeks of “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, Hamas began launching rockets  from Gaza into Israel  and on July 7, 2014, the  brutal “Operation Protective Edge” was unleashed on Gaza by the Netanyahu government. So with the  ongoing siege of Gaza by Israel since 2007 as a response to the democratic election of Hamas, referred to by Israel as “keeping Gaza on a diet”, another brutal Israeli assault  on Gaza commenced. This is called by Israeli officials as a necessary and periodic “mowing the grass in Gaza.”

As of this date, this latest lawn mowing has resulted in the killing of  over 1,900 Gazans,  over 80% of them civilians, more than 400 children killed.  Gaza itself is devastated , again. Recently four Gazan kids were killed by an  Israeli air strike as they played soccer on the beach. I have been reading extensively on this ongoing tragedy of brutal, oppressive,colonial occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by Israel and will post some articles in the upcoming days.

 

Israeli teens murderedgaza dead child on beachPalestinian teen murderedGAZA_DEAD_KIDS1_734904bGazan boys on the beach reflection

But as a father of three sons and grandfather of two young boys, I have my own personal thoughts,and emotions ,and questions. The sadness of this latest brutal attack of Gaza first hit me last Wednesday , as I was attending a small outdoor concert with my wife and friends in Glen Arbor: a beautiful ,cool , summer night under a cloudless sky. In front of me, sitting there in our lawn chairs as an Irish band of six young ladies entertained us , I observed a father  who just “lit up” when his teenaged daughter and her friend arrived. His love  and his shear delight for her  was so evident. And in front of him a father held his 5 year old son in his lap. And the band started playing a Stephen Foster song, that I had only heard sung by my favorite, Emilou Harris:”Hard Times , Come Again No More.” It’s first stanza and chorus is as follows:

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.


The tears began to flow as I thought of all the kids killed in the murderous assault on Gaza.I thought of  the grieving mothers and fathers and grandparents of  the dead  children of Gaza, of  the dead IDF soldiers, of the murdered Israeli and Palestinian teens in this endless , needless conflict. Of course I thought of my own family and my love for them.

I thought of the heart-breaking anguish and grief, the pain. I thought of the leaders  who could stop this injustice , this brutal occupation, this endless violence, if only they had the eyes to see and the courage to act: Netanyahu and Obama. I thought of their kids.

I thought of  a young, teen-aged freedom fighter, under occupation, besieged in the Warsaw ghetto in 1933, the young Jew Mordechai Ancelewicz, whose defiant, ecstatic exclamation of a willingness to fight for his freedom was exhibited in Yad Vashem, which I wrote down when I first saw it displayed there.  I saw the irony immediately. What do the Israeli’s expect from the people they so cruelly and brutally occupy and oppress?

“My life’s dream has come true. Self-defense in the ghetto has become a fact. Armed resistance and revenge are actually happening. I have witnessed the glorious and heroic combat of the Jewish fighter”
Mordechai Ancelewicz: Warsaw ghetto 4-23-43

All of these thoughts have been swirling around in my head over these past several days, as I contemplated writing this blog post. As I sat on the beach of beautiful Sleeping Bear Bay, watching moms and dads and grandparents and dogs and their kids play, I thought of how precious life is and how blessed we are to have life and freedom from want and deprivation and violence.

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Last Sunday evening I returned to that same Lake Street Studio for another small outdoor concert, with a different set of dear friends to listen to “Peter, Paul, and Mary Remembered.” They began with ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, which contains:

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

and continued with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which P,P and Mary sang in 1963 at the march on Washington, when MLK Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream ” speech. A few of these lyrics:

How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

How many times can a man turn his head
and pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

And the tears again came to my eyes. I have been thinking: these are pretty profound and provocative questions raised by so-called  drugged-out, hippie , song writers and singers fifty years ago. Indeed, “how many deaths will it take till he knows
that too many people have died? ” and “Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will WE ever learn?

Fathers and Sons

Grandfather Benzion Netanyahu, who died in 2012 at the age of 102, father of  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on “Arabs”:

That they won’t be able to face [anymore] war with us, which will include withholding food from Arab cities, preventing education, terminating electrical power and more. They won’t be able to exist, and they will run away from here. But it all depends on the war, and whether we will win the battles with them.

and, in response to the question: Operation Cast Lead was one of the worst beatings we ever handed on a civilian population.How could we [Israel] have been harsher?

That’s not enough. It’s possible that we should have hit harder.

Q: Is there any hope of peace?

A: Out of an agreement? No. The other side [“the Arabs”] might keep the peace if it understands that doing anything [else] will cause it enormous pain. The two-state solution doesn’t exist. There are no two peoples here. There is a Jewish people and an Arab population. …  There is no Palestinian people, so you don’t create a state for an imaginary nation. …  They only call themselves a people in order to fight the Jews.

The Father , Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” July 2014

Which leads to David Horowitz to write:
That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Just Bantustans, what we’ve observed again and again in recent years.

and , at the funeral of the slain three Israeli teens:

They [the boys] were abducted & murdered in cold blood by human animals.

The light you [the boy’s families] radiate shines even brighter in contrast to the horrific darkness of those who seek our destruction — despicable kidnappers of children, heinous murderers whose brothers rejoice at the spilling of innocent blood.

A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.

Youngest grandson, Yair Netanyahu:

As a Result of the Akko Pogroms, I Too Boycott Arab Businesses!

Those Arab sons of whores desecrated the holiest day of our year.  This wasn’t in Syria or in Egypt.  It was right here in the State of Israel–the Jewish nation’s only state.  Because the leftist authorities won’t do anything regarding this matter and because the media will only trot out [before the cameras] the “poor Arabs,” it is up to us to do the minimum to restore our self-respect by boycotting all Arab businesses and products.  Besides, I boycotted these shits even before!

Gaza cartoon "don't hurt civilians"

When , indeed will we ever learn?

“Teach your children well,” as Crosby , Stills , Nash and Young once sang.

More questions: from Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun :

When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg instead of  racists like Netanyahu.  Listen to the wise words of Berg :“The Palestinians: A kidnapped society: We are incapable of understanding the suffering of a society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us”

I always wonder , why do the supporters of the State of Israel think this immoral , brutal , unjust oppression and occupation of another people make them safe? Don’t they realize they are fostering more hate and violence?

Again, Rabbi Lerner:

Let me explain why Israeli behavior toward Palestinians – not just during this latest assault but also throughout the past decades during which Israel militarily enforced its Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of food and building materials to Gaza – and the cheerleading for such behavior by Jews around the world is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews (not to mention strengthening the hands of the already existing anti-Semites whose hatred of Jews would continue no matter what Israel or Jews do or do not do).

and finally, just today, a devotion by Fr. Richard Rohr, in which he talks about the need for an encounter with “the Other.” Netanyahu has obviously been taught by his father and has passed it down to his sons that “the Arab ” is barbaric, a savage, terrorists and cannot be trusted, only eliminated , or at least, controlled . Many Palestinians’  experience of Jews is in the form of an IDF soldier breaking down their doors in the middle of the night.

I wonder if Netanyahu has ever met Daoud Nassar ?

Here is my mentor Frederick Buechner on Seeing the Other:

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

And this morning’s devotional by Fr. Richard Rohr:

Intimate with Otherness
Thursday, August 14, 2014

It is an openness to the other—as other—that frees us for creativity and originality in our response: the other who is somehow outside my social system or the Absolute Other who gives me a reference point that relativizes all of my own. It is always an encounter with otherness that changes me. If I am not open to the beyond-me, I’m in trouble. Without the other, we are all trapped in a perpetual hall of mirrors that only validates and deepens our limited and already existing worldviews.

When there is the encounter with the other, when there is mutuality, when there is presence, when there is giving and receiving, and both are changed in that encounter, that is the moment when you can begin to move toward transformation. Maybe the word transformation scares you, but it means exactly the same as its Latin roots—to “change forms.” When you allow other people or events to change you, you look back at life with new and different eyes. That is the only real meaning of human growth.

One could say that the central theme of the biblical revelation is to call people to encounters with otherness: the alien, the sinner, the Samaritan, the Gentile, the hidden and denied self, angels unaware. And all of these are perhaps in preparation and training for hopeful meetings with the Absolute Other.[God] We need practice in moving outside of our comfort zones. It is never a natural or easy response.

And that occupied,oppressed, Galilean peasant, mystic, teacher, healer and prophet Jesus of Nazareth, who learned from his Abba about the non-violent  Kingdom of God, and  said, as he was being tortured and executed by empire:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

 

Pal-Jew kids peacecan do better

 

Enjoy Emilou Harris:

 

 

 

 

 

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