Peace is not built of easy answers and dichotomous truths
Program Staff member Marcie Gibson, a mother to five Jewish children, shares some reflections and resources on violence in Israel and Palestine.
My heart has been especially heavy these last few months, navigating ways to support my Jewish family, kin, and colleagues in their mourning, and through their experiences of real-time local antisemitism. The retraumatizing effects of this for them, alongside fear of further violence and misplaced retaliation, demonization, and a constant barrage of shallow, oversimplified analysis, is a lot to bear. Yes, and, (how I love that little word combination) Yes, and critiquing militarization, critiquing the notion of nation-states and nationalism, critiquing European colonialism, supporting local Muslim communities who are also being affected, and personally calling for peace in an immediate end to escalating spiralling violence.
It’s complicated. Yes, and, our attempts to erase those complications do not contribute to a just peace – here or anywhere. I am not going to write a position paper or offer you my own analysis on the historical and current political conflicts in Israel and Palestine, as it’s not mine to write. I am going to offer some wisdom and ethical guideposts to keep in mind as you engage, and then offer three resources I have found helpful.
- Listening to and centring the voices of those who are directly affected – including their kin.
- Engaging in dialogue and difficult conversations, with the purpose of learning more than convincing.
- Showing up pastorally, offering compassion and accompaniment, honouring humanity that supersedes judgement or verdict.
- Recognizing our own power and complicity as Christians, historically and currently in Western colonial nations.
- Being wary of false comparisons or oversimplified metaphors – political or theological.
- Guarding against the weaponization of scripture.
These are but a few theoethical guideposts, and I encourage you to offer others – that you have learned through CCS or elsewhere – in the comments section.
On November 15th, 2023, the Shalom Hartman Institute, offered a webinar attended by more than 1000 people, called Jewish Perspectives on this Moment: A special session for non-Jewish clergy, featuring the voices of Justus Baird, Mijal Bitton (in New York), and Tamar Elad-Appelbaum (in Israel).
I found it thoughtful, insightful, humanizing, and directly applicable for ministry in our current Canadian context. I particularly appreciate the time they took to address us as “non-Jewish clergy [or those in preparation and formation]”. There is a recording of the session available here, and I hope you will take the time to view it.
Two weeks earlier, on October 29th, I was asked to be a guest preacher at Westdale United Church, and my sermon “If you Had to Pick One” reflecting on the great commandment in the Gospel of Matthew 22:34-46, is available here (the sermon runs minutes 37:35 – 1:05:00). It particularly addresses ethical decision-making, the consequences of division, and roots of Christian antisemitism.
Lastly, I want to lift up a beautiful prayer for peace that was shared at the webinar, that had been co-written by Sheikha Ibtisam Mahameed and Rabbi Tamar Elad Applebaum, called “Prayer of Mothers for Life and Peace”, also available in Arabic, Hebrew, English, and German here.
We have been encouraged to use it in worship or elsewhere.
Holding you all in prayer as you live and serve in prayer, solidarity, compassion, and prophetic peace.
A note about timing. Whenever you are accessing resources, whether books, articles, or recordings, particularly those posted on the web, remember to consider the date and context in which they were produced and shared. These are not the same as the time and context in which you are accessing them, and that likely change can be very important.