September 14, 2001
Candlelight vigils. Prayer services of remembrance and mourning. Rallies of solidarity. Blood drives. Institutions closed out of respect for the untold numbers of victims and their families. Official and individual statements of support and outrage. All of these are happening in Palestinian communities of the West Bank and Gaza in response to the horror unleashed upon the United States three days ago. Without exception, our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances - young and old, Christian and Muslim, male and female - have expressed their condolences and shared their prayers, asking us to tell people in America that they are praying for them. Like us, many had been frantically calling friends and family in the States to make certain they were OK. Following all of this, the violence in our area has increased, as the cities of Jenin and Tubas have been targeted. Zababdeh, between the two, has felt this. Many of the teachers and students at our school live in Jenin and Tubas, and we have all been very worried for their safety. Wednesday morning, our small clinic was busy treating wounded from helicopter attacks - with Jenin sealed off, no one can get to a hospital. We even had to evacuate our school after there was shooting near a school in Tubas. No doubt that the sense of panic was compounded by watching the aftermath of the attacks on the U.S. Tuesday night. The fear and unrest here paled in comparison to that of our homeland, but it has added to our general exhaustion and sorrow.
It is unlikely that any of this information will erase the images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets of Jerusalem, and the reports of similar events in Nablus. No matter how many reassurances we can offer you from friends of ours that this jubilation was sparse at best, we cannot - and will not - deny it. Many of you have written to us with deep questions - knowing your own experience of Palestinians, or living vicariously through ours - wondering how such images could be reconciled with statements of sympathy. It seems to us that there are now two paths before us. We can choose to see these statements of solidarity as cynical plays for political gain, and no doubt some of you have already made that choice. That not only assumes for us the role of naive rubes, pawns in a deadly scheme, but it lays a blanket condemnation on an entire people for the heartless emotions of a few. This is the path we fear, and its consequences are potentially tragic.
But we are left with another path: to understand that Palestinians are no better or worse than anyone else - they share with us a common humanity, as created beings steeped in sin and surrounded in grace. This path sees that Palestinians are a diverse people, with all of the joys and embarrassments that this brings. One thinks of the horrors unleashed upon America by its own citizens: Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold and in Columbine, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith from Wilmette, IL, and the terror wrought by groups like the Ku Klux Klan on their fellow Americans. Hopefully no one would think of these perpetrators as representative of all Americans, or judging us worthy of blanket condemnation. Rather, they are symbolic of the darkness that haunts us and of the evil of which we are all capable. Even so, we are called to a grace which is greater and more powerful and more perfect than any evil we can render.
The second path is the path we urge, for it is lit by the light of the gospel - the good news that sees no difference in people, whether Jew or Greek, male or female, Arab or American - or Arab-American. It understands that God shows no preference for one nation, one race, one political system, one economic theory, over another. This is the path that leads to redemption, for it recognizes our common humanity, created in the image of God. It is only on this path that we can touch mercy, that we can witness the defeat of death by life, and that we can truly work together as instruments of grace.
Choose this path.
Grace and Peace,
Elizabeth and Marthame
PS We have also updated our journal page with stories from the previous week