Rachel Weeps: My Response to the War in the Middle East

The world is weeping at the loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza. Hamas’ barbaric violence conducted on innocent and unsuspecting Israeli citizens is an affront to natural law and a violation of divine justice.

Anyone–both Israeli and Palestinian sympathizers–must condemn such violence, no matter the perpetrators.

And now that open war has broken out across the region, the real victims of this extended conflict will be the innocent Jewish and Palestinian families attempting to live out their lives in peace.

For them, I weep. The echoes of these cries travel as far back as the Christian Scriptures.

The Gospel of Matthew recalls Herod, after receiving word from the Magi that the Jewish Messiah had possibly been born, issuing an edict to murder every male child under two.

As Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus fled to Egypt, Matthew quotes the prophet, Jeremiah, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (2:18).

While there have been varied responses to the attacks over the weekend, I remain spiritually numb to the reality of our existence. Like Rachel, I refuse to be comforted because I am, unfortunately, learning more and more about the bleakness of the world where I dwell.

As a person of faith seeking to understand and advocate for all faiths, I remain appalled at the level of callousness among the faith community. There are moments when making a pointed argument is less important than offering a soft shoulder.

Hearing from rabbis, imams and Christian clerics, some are feeling abandoned by communities attempting to force them into a position that would require the dehumanization of other individuals. At this news, I keep hearing the reason behind Rachel’s refusal to be comforted: “Her children are no more.”

The innocent Jews murdered by Hamas this week are no more.

The innocent Palestinians losing their lives to Israel’s military response, they are no more.

To the thousands of Jews, Muslims and Christians who have died because of this long conflict, they are no more.

For all of them, I weep.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction–for everybody. Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate.”

Listen to King’s words again, but slower:

“Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness.”

“It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody.”

“Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate.”

Who will that someone be? Who will be the person who finally says enough is enough?

Who will be the one who finally silences Rachel’s weeping?

Seriously, who? Why not this generation?

Why can’t this generation reject the divisions of the past, setting into motion a peaceful existence when Jewish and Palestinian citizens can live in peace?

Why can’t this generation demand weapons of war be set down and branches of peace be extended? Why can’t this generation finally demand that we take our sacred texts seriously?

Psalm 34:14: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

Qur’an 8:61: “If the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).”

If any hope is left for this conflict, it will be in the emerging generations taking their sacred texts to heart and applying them to real-world circumstances.

For too long, previous generations have given lip service, doing little to quell the violence and death we witness. For too long, previous generations clung to religious dogmas as though the Divine cared about our temporal sectarianism.

The time has come for peace-loving and justice-seeking people of faith to solidify our efforts to bring about a world all our faiths demand–one of love, justice and hope for everyone.

Who will wipe away Rachel’s tears and calm her soul?

Who will offer her the alternative the world needs–peace, shalom and salaam?

Until someone, or some people, step up, then we will continue to weep with her.