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Under the Shadow of Death

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Israeli Palestinian Conflict

This poem and reflection were shared with me by one of my Master's students, Lisa Loden. She is an Israeli Christian who serves as the co-chair of the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine and is a board member of Global Peace Heroes. Lisa also serves on the advisory board of the Bethlehem Institute for Peace and Justice.

Under the Shadow of Death

In the shade of the mango tree,

beside the rosebush,

stands an ancient plowshare,

a symbol of peace,

created from forged iron.

Perhaps it was once iron swords.

Under the lengthening shadow of death,

live seventeen million

Israelis, Gazans, Palestinians

divided by impenetrable walls,

walls of suspicion, hatred, fear.

Grief, and suffering stalk their streets

At the Gazan borders, by the sea

untold thousands, soldiers

stand ready to invade.

A million ordered to evacuate

each one a mother, father,

brother, sister, daughter, son.

The dream of peaceful plowshares,

scent of roses, redolence of ripe mango

obliterated by smoke, shrapnel

and fallen ash on once holy ground.

stained now by death’s red shadow,

and the double-sided stab of iron swords.

What do we see when we see the faces? When we look into the eyes and faces of the “other?” Do we see the Gazan mother fleeing with her children, the dead children downed by bombs or massacred in their beds, the lost youth of both peoples grown up with the legacy of war upon war, upon war, or the pilots who rained death from the skies on defenseless people, or the soldier faced with the impossible choice to protect or kill? What do we see?

I cannot discern the difference. Israeli, Arab, Palestinian, Jew, Christian, Moslem, secular, religious, men, women. We are all one, all human, members of the vast and beautiful human family. We stand this day, divided, sundered by the forces of hatred, fear, pride, and our common need to survive.

What will be the cost of this war, will it be the hearts, the minds of our youth, the calcification of our views about the “other”— us the Jews and them the other, us the Arabs and them the other? Will it be the end of peace, a further distancing — Jewish and Arab, Palestinians and Israelis, left and right, secular and religious, Jewish/Christian/Moslem, after Israel has “won” another war?

As I write these words, we are on the threshold of an irrevocable decision. Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself. In this current conflict, entitled “Iron Sword,” Israel has already rained death and destruction on thousands of innocent citizens, and wounded thousands more. Will it ever be enough to erase the multiplying trauma? There is no justice, no balance in this equation, nor has there ever been. Today, to “eradicate” the enemy at any cost, Israel has justified all further civilian deaths for those who may yet choose to remain in Gaza. For days we’ve denied them the basic necessities of food, water, and electricity. There are no machines to dig through the rubble, to rescue any who may yet be alive. And time is passing . . . how long can they live under the rubble of war? How long can we live in the rubble of war?

There is no exit, there are no shelters, all borders are closed, one million people “advised” to evacuate to nowhere. And we pride ourselves on our humanitarian stance to warn them of the imminent devastation of their world.

This war is not with flesh and blood, but with the powers of darkness that seek to destroy. The wrath of man never works the will of God.

In the words of journalist Nicholas Kristoff: “If we owe a moral responsibility to Israeli children, then we owe the same moral responsibility to Palestinian children. Their lives have equal weight.” And “If you care about human life only in Israel or only in Gaza, then you don’t actually care about human life.[1]

We, the most privileged of all,

we who know the grace,

the mercy of the living God

called to walk in love,

to do justice, to love mercy

to walk humbly with our God.

What will we do this day?

Will we weep? Will we lament?

Will we rejoice in victory?

Will we cry out for life?

Will we choose to see

the open wounds of our Saviour,

bleeding still for all his children?

© October 2023 Lisa Loden

*iStock image of Israel vs Palestine flag on cracked wall. Palestine and Israel war concept, silhouette of soldiers in Palestine vs Israel stock photo, by IherPhoto.

[1] ‘Seeking a Moral Compass in Gaza’s War.’ October 12, 2023

1 kommentar

02. nov. 2023

Hi Rob 0 Curious about your view of the conflict in view of St Augustine's just war theory? Moreover, what are telltale signs of drawing a moral equivalency and which sentiments - in your view - signifies antisemitism?

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