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A resilient but barren olive tree stands as a symbol amidst the human side of the Middle East crisis, offering hope for peace to bloom

The Human Voices from Israel and Palestine

Amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's turmoil, what resounds in the hearts of those directly affected? Personal narratives from Gaza to Jerusalem unveil a tapestry of despair, hope, and unwavering resilience in the face of adversity.

I’ve participated in peace activist work around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for several years. News and social media images of the barbarically evil acts committed by Hamas against innocent people have left me and my fellow Israeli and Palestinian peace activist friends sickened and horrified. I’ve collected the snippets we’ve shared as we’ve rallied together in mourning for all the innocent people who have been, and those who will be, impacted by the violence unfolding in the region. To put a human face on what’s happening, I share their voices.

From Tantish, my contact from Swim with Gaza (Tantish runs a children’s swim school in Gaza serving hundreds of Gaza kids & families.)  “Thanks a lot for your thoughts and prayers. I am, and my family are all fine.  Unfortunately, things are far worse than anything we have witnessed before. But hope this will end soon.”

Paul, one of the London-based supporters of Swim with Gaza, said he is trying to coordinate with the on-site Swim with Gaza team to account for all the children they serve and to help provide care as needed, but circumstances are such that the swim academy staff can’t do so yet.  Children make up nearly 50% of the population of Gaza.

From Matthew, my fellow J Street friend from Utah, and from my Jewish-Israeli contacts (J Street is a pro-Israeli pro-Democracy advocacy group out of D.C. seeking a peaceful end to the occupation): “We are all stunned by the horrific images and voices and stories we have been reading and hearing and watching. Many of us are in touch with family and friends in Israel and share in their shock and grief and anger and frustration.” There is a lot of rallying in this and similar groups, with Zoom meetings, sharing of news stories, and, impressive to me, a personal invitation from the J Street National Director of Engagement to call and personally speak to him if anyone needs or wants additional support.  

From Tamrika’s friend in Gaza (Dr. Tamrika Khvtisiashvili was an English Language Fellow in Palestine, she and I traveled there together):  Simply, “Please keep us in your prayers.”  Tamrika’s response to her friend, “I finally heard back from my friend that lives in Gaza, the one I made the zine with … It broke my heart.”  

From Tuly, a former Israeli Defense Force deputy battalion commander, now a licensed therapist and part of the binational peace activist group Combatants for Peace (Combatants for Peace is an Israeli-Palestinian peace activist group dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence): “Thank you (for reaching out). This means so much to me. We don’t know yet (what the needs are), but I am enlisted to help people.” (That’s a humble understatementTuly is amazingly always on the very front lines in this conflict.)

From Tiffany, my friend and executive director of American Friends of Combatants for Peace: “Oh Carrie, thank you for texting. It’s been such a devastating morning …,” and  “For our movement of Israelis and Palestinians, the pain is unbearable …  This is a crucial moment where we must all dig deep to find our resolve to move ahead together. This is not a time for revenge or collective punishment of the innocent.” 

From Jamil, the Palestinian Coordinator from Combatants for Peace, speaking to his Israeli friend and counterparts on a Zoom call: “I can’t believe this. I am seeing these images, and I don’t want to believe they are real. I cannot hold back my tears. You are my friends, my family.” Other Palestinian activists echoed words of care to Israeli members: “I am with you. I’m going to stay with you.” “I wish I could see you and hold you.” The Israeli executive director responded, “We don’t belong to the extreme parts of our communities, but we belong to each other. We choose each other. We are not our societies; we are humans.”

From Donna, the founder of Rebuilding Alliance that organized the senate staff & constituents delegation tour to Israel-Palestine that I went on earlier this year: The most recent delegation tour with 5 senate staff was supposed to arrive Sunday, but the airlines canceled the flights, and the tour was canceled.  “Rebuilding Alliance is being asked to assist with providing emergency food, blankets, hygiene supplies, and solar lights to the thousands of families in Gaza now taking refuge in UNRWA schools and in private homes in response to the maps and notices posted by the Israeli Army calling for their mass evacuation. We’re working out the logistics with our Palestinian NGO partners in Gaza. Rebuilding Alliance is also being asked to assist Americans who seek to evacuate from Gaza and the West Bank. We’re relaying requests to the US Embassy in Jerusalem and offering logistics assistance.”  

From the BYU Jerusalem Center: “Rocket attacks from militants in Gaza continue, and sirens sounded in Jerusalem Monday afternoon. Everyone at the Center, including students, moved to the center’s shelters for the short duration of the attack. Rockets on a short trajectory toward greater Jerusalem, which includes the westernmost parts of the municipal area, trigger the alarms. The rockets were either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or fell harmlessly in rural areas between Gaza and Jerusalem. …  There have been some disturbances in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. However, areas around the Center and most of Jerusalem remain calm but tense, with a heavy Israel security presence. … Students have been asked to remain at the Center.”

From Gail from Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land and long-time spouse of a wonderful Palestinian man: “Praying for clarity of vision by people of goodwill around the world to recognize that … equality under the law is a fundamental human right. … There is no military solution. Praying for insight and stamina for the work ahead.”

From Hamed, my Palestinian philanthropist friend living in Hebron: “It goes without saying that the current situation in Israel\Palestine is a dire one as it is anticipated that the coming days will be exceptionally tough. We don’t know what the next steps will be, and we don’t know what price the civilians will be paying or when this round of violence will stop. (There is) a BIG possibility of a spillover into the West Bank. Too many possible scenarios that can only spell more suffering for the innocent. Just please keep us in your prayers and thoughts. … We are doing fine and keeping safe, yet our hearts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Gaza.” 

My thoughts:  I’m just so so sad. I recently wrote about Christ’s take on justice:  

Adam S. Miller, author of “Original Grace,” reflects on Christ’s portrayal of justice in the Sermon on the Mount, writing: “Jesus says again and again ‘I know what I’m about to tell you is going to seem like I’m blowing up God’s law, but it’s not, it’s actually going to fulfill God’s law, it’s actually the very thing that His law requires in order for justice to be achieved.’”

“At the end of the day, what the law requires, is loving your enemy,” Miller continues. “If you return evil for evil, you haven’t achieved justice, and you haven’t fulfilled the law.”

Is Christ really saying justice means victims (of terrorism, discrimination, or of the occupation) are to respond to evil with good? 

Mind-bogglingly, yes.  

 Deseret.com

Respond to evil with good.  

 

This is so hard. 

 

That’s all I’ve got.

About the author

Carrie Skarda

Dr. Carrie Skarda is a Latter-day Saint psychologist and Israeli-Palestinian peace activist in Salt Lake City.
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