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Words from the Mideast

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Frank Schultz
November 21, 2012

Good news this morning: a ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis. The Mideast is far from the Midwest, but the conflict is close to me because I have ties there. Friends and family are asking about my in-laws and friends in Israel, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been hearing, along with some words directly from an Israeli friend who has been awakened by sirens and explosions around her home.

This morning I talked with my friend, who lives within range of the Hamas missiles. Her town was hit twice this week. No one was hurt. My friend works at a school. She tells me the children jump at every loud noise.

My friend is on the Israeli side, which is well protected compared with the Palestinian side. I cannot say what Gaza is like beyond what all of us see and read in the news. It looks like a slice of hell. I do know about my friends. They have been under attack for days, in a state of war. My friend posted a photo on Facebook of someone feeding milk to a calf. It’s a job I used to do when I lived there, but I never had to wear a helmet and flak vest when I did it.

My friend lives in a place whose residents have backed the peace process. They have called for exchanging land for peace. Many Israelis are of this opinion. Many are not. It’s an issue that divides them down the middle. This war strengthens the position of those who are unwilling to take a chance for peace.

When I lived there, men from Gaza would come to this Israeli town every day to work. We had good relations with them. Some worked in construction. Some came to buy manure from us. They scooped it into baskets and carried the baskets up a ramp into their truck. It took them most of the day to load the truck. In the morning, they would brew a strong, sweet tea over a little fire. They would invite us for tea. I can still taste it – tea that gives one strength to endure backbreaking labor for hours on end. I cannot begin to imagine what those men's families in Gaza feel every day that this goes on. Most of them already live in grinding poverty. With borders sealed, they cannot work in Israel as they used to. Israelis fear that unsealing the border would lead to terror attacks -- exploding public buses and restaurants -- things that have happened before.

My friend has been invited by her friends in the north to come stay with them, out of the range of the missiles. She is staying put. The Palestinians don’t have that option. They’re stuck in a densely populated area with no way out. When Hamas fires a missile from Gaza, the Israelis strike back, and civilians often die. Israelis have died too, but the death toll in Gaza is much higher than in Israel. The Israelis have an anti-missile system that knocks many of the Hamas missiles out of the sky. But not all, not the ones that hit my friends’ hometown. So innocents—including children—are at risk on both sides. It’s enough to make you cry, or cry out in frustration.

My friend wrote the following words in a Facebook conversation. They read like a poem, so I translated them like this:

-- I do not like this situation.

-- I do not like them shooting at me.

-- I am not willing to leave my home so that they will not be shooting at me.

-- I do not want to think about those who are sacrificing in order to protect me.

-- I do not like to be afraid and stressed out.

-- And I think there are few on the other side who believe that war is the answer.

End of poem. Today, the two sides decided not to kill. We can only hope that one day of peace begets another day, and another, and another …

Salaam alaikum. Shalom aleichem. Have a peaceful Thanksgiving.



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