Dear St. John’s Community,
I imagine that, like me, you are deeply saddened by the recent attacks against Israel. While the political climate in the Middle East is indeed complex, the attacks by the Hamas terrorist organization are totally and unequivocally uncalled for. These attacks, which targeted the likes of children, women, families, and other innocent civilians, are deeply painful. Hamas, a fundamentalist extremist organization, has a history of these types of faith-based and political attacks. These assaults are frequently aimed at Jewish people and Israeli citizens. Over seventy percent of Israeli citizens are Jewish.
Our Jewish sisters and brothers have been villainized and have been the victims of hostility and prejudice for centuries. Dating back to the days of the Exodus, the Jewish people were enslaved by the Egyptians. In the early days of the Christian Church, Jewish people became the scapegoats of various Christians. Sadly, groups of Christians have long erroneously blamed the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Jesus. We must acknowledge that our Christian scriptures do contain verbiage that promotes the idea that “the Jews killed Jesus.” However, to be clear, the Jewish people did not kill Jesus. Instead, it was a very specific group of faith and political leaders who called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Some of those people happened to be Jewish, but they did not speak on behalf of the Jewish people. Jesus, his family, and his friends, were Jewish. The first Christians were Jewish. Without Judaism, Christianity as we know it would not exist.
While Judaism’s mark on society is large, many people are surprised to learn how few Jews there are in the world. There are about 14 million Jewish people in the world today, representing two hundredths of a percent of the world’s population. More than half of today’s world Jewish population lives in the United States. In contrast, about 25 percent of the world is Muslim and 31 percent is Christian. Yet, even small in numbers, the Jewish people continue to receive acts of hatred and terror. During the Holocaust, 6 million Jewish people were killed. To put that into perspective, we can see that that figure represents nearly half of today’s total Jewish population.
Since the days of World War II and the independence of the Israeli State, it has become almost cliché to say we pray for peace in the Middle East. Entire political careers have been built and destroyed by politicians who have promised to achieve peace in that region of the world. This doesn’t mean we should stop praying and it does not mean we should stop working for peace.
Our Jewish sisters and brothers need allies. They see and hear what we write and say. Wounds run deep, and the Jewish community needs our love and support.
I invite you to join me in praying for all people in the region who are affected by acts of terrorism. I encourage you to speak up for our Jewish sisters and brothers, who maintain the covenant that God made with them. We are called to speak up against acts of terrorism and antisemitism. It is important that we do all in our power to limit and to eliminate anti-Jewish and antisemitic rhetoric from conversation. Remember, things that seem small can escalate and perpetuate stereotypes. We hold in prayer all members of the Jewish community, along with all the innocent Israeli and Palestinian people whose lives are impacted.
There is an interfaith service of prayer on Tuesday, October 17 at Temple Beth Shalom in Sun City. I plan to attend this service and I invite you to join me. If you plan to attend, the temple has asked, for security reasons, that you call them at 623-977-3240 to add your name to the guest list.
Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they
may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen (BCP p. 816).