Regret for the loss of innocent lives in Gaza

In these painful times we regret the loss of all innocent life. Our thoughts are with all those who grieve and we fervently pray that we soon see a just and lasting peace for all in the region.” This was the statement made recently by representatives of different denominations within the British Jewish community, including the community I belong to.

2014PhotoYasmeen Nayef al-Yazji 4 Hatem Zain Nayef al-Yazji3

On the 21st July, Israeli warplanes bombarded a house belonging to the al-Yazji family west of Jabalya in Gaza. As a result, Wajdi Mahmoud ‘Ali al-Yazji, 54; his wife Safinaz Nabil al-Yazji, 50; and his grandchildren, Yasmeen Nayef al-Yazji, 4, and Hatem Zain Nayef al-Yazji, 3, were killed. Four members of the family were also wounded and the house was heavily damaged. (Source: PCHR) A photo of the children was on the website humanizepalestine.com. When I saw the smiling, happy faces of Yasmeen and Hatem, I didn’t feel regret. I felt nauseous. I felt torn apart. I felt grief-stricken. I felt guilt. I felt despair. I saw my own precious grandchildren, Shanteya, 4, and Riley, 2, looking at me for protection. Even if Wajdi Mahmoud ‘Ali al-Yazji and Safinaz Nabil al-Yazji are not innocent, even if they deserved to die, I don’t feel safer as a Jew knowing that an Israeli warplane dropped a bomb on their house without even knowing their names.

I don’t feel regret but I can fervently pray and this is my prayer:

May our people’s long history of persecution, especially from the Nazi Holocaust, open our hearts to passionately value all life equally and to abhor generalising and dehumanising any group of people, including Hamas.

May Israeli policy makers come to their senses and realise that their policy of seeking security through domination is inhumane and ultimately ineffective. May the State of Israel cease Operation Protective Edge, bring an end to the 7 year siege of Gaza, end the 47 year long military occupation of the Palestinian people, acknowledge the unity government of Hamas and Fatah as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, and negotiate to find a just and lasting peace for all in the region.

May the US and UK governments stop providing military aid to Israel and start exerting meaningful and serious pressure on the Israeli government to work towards a just and lasting peace for all.

May Hamas, Islamic Jihad and any other Palestinian militias stop firing rockets into Israel and stop talking about ‘obliterating the Zionist entity’.

May the Israeli and Palestinian people join together to formulate the only workable, just and lasting way out – a single democratic state which guarantees individual and collective rights for all.

In Hebrew, the word for prayer is l’hitpallel which means to fill our hearts and minds with the vision of what we want to see. I visualise Yasmeen and Shanteya, Hatem and Riley together with their parents and grandparents playing, laughing, running around, dancing, singing and eating. All together in peace, love and harmony.

As Martin Luther King said of another apparently intractable conflict, “Out of the mountain of despair, comes the stone of hope.”

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