By Rosalyn Mauchline (Pax Christi Scotland executive committee member)
I began writing this on May 15th, a day which commemorates the Nakba – the catastrophe – for Palestinians when over 500 villages were taken over or destroyed and 750,000 became refugees in their own land.
Watching the recent horrific news coverage of violence and death from Gaza has, I am sure, had a major effect on all of us who work and pray for peace. I recently heard Jesus, the Prince of Peace, described as the first Palestinian martyr and this led me to reflect on my journey in learning about Palestine.
I knew little about what was happening there when in 1982 I moved to work on the outskirts of London in an area with a large Jewish population. I was struck by the similarities between many of my elderly Jewish patients and my grandparents back in County Tyrone – they had the same sort of indomitable spirit no matter the hardships they had been through.
I learned a great deal from them and then one day a lovely elderly Jewish gentleman came into the surgery and as I was checking his blood pressure, with the tattooed number visible on his lower arm, he told me of his negative views on the state of Israel.
I admit I was shocked, as I knew extraordinarily little about what was happening, and as that tattooed number clearly identified him as a Holocaust survivor, I falsely assumed he would be supportive. However, he strongly encouraged me to read and learn about Israel and the Palestinian people.
Over the subsequent years I have done so, always remembering his words to me that day, and all these years later I am involved with both Palestinian and Israeli groups working for Peace. A visit to Palestine several years ago helped to strengthen my support for these groups.
So, when the other day a friend told me her daughter in London had spoken to her, distressed and upset that she felt helpless about the violent scenes from Gaza she had seen on TV, I found myself sending her the quote from Daniel Berrigan that we had been given at our recent Pax Christi Scotland Zoom event on engendering peace through dialogue: “One cannot level one’s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them, but you can do something: and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”
My friend sent her daughter information about some of the groups that will give people knowledge of the situation and others which support practically the Palestinian people.
So as my Jewish gentleman all those years ago suggested to me, might I suggest to you to learn about the reality and perhaps find ways of working for peace. These are just a few resources that will help:
Blood Brothers – by Elias Chacour (Baker Books; Updated ed. edition (15 April 2013) ISBN: 0801015731
From Balfour to Banksy – film available on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnVbkIVa1ibczSLrmjfOAKA)
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (https://icahd.org/)
Sabeel Kairos UK (https://www.sabeel-kairos.org.uk/)