This week we’re seeing one of those uniquely clarifying moments in the Middle East. Baby Omar from Gaza was much loved by the women of our community ever since he came to Israel as a newborn for emergency heart surgery in October:
Omar’s second surgery was planned for last month, but was delayed when the Palestinian authorities failed to process the papers for his entry into Israel. Our team rescheduled him for this week, but Omar suddenly deteriorated and died in Gaza three days before his new appointment.
Those of you who regularly read this letter see such battles playing out weekly, with no one paying much attention other than the Lord, the families, our little community of Jesus followers, and the doctors in Israel who are committed to saving the lives of these children. But this time the story went all over the world:
Why was it news this week? Perhaps, as the last paragraph of the Times article hints, because a world which rejects the God of Israel is quick to lay blame when the people of Israel act on the promises given them in the scriptures. This is even more clear in the Arabic media, which reported the story widely under headlines such as “The price of the siege and the annexation plan: the death of two babies in Gaza without treatment.”
Yet we have to understand that our Arab and Muslim neighbors know how to read between the lines of their media far better than we do. And what it says to them is: Our religious and political leaders are willing to let our children die if it causes harm to Israel.
Of course this calls to mind the widely-quoted adage of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
Here are three necessary responses from us as people of faith:
1) Pray for the children of Gaza. Our team worked all day today trying to get three more emergency newborns from Gaza to the Sheba and Hadassah medical centers in Israel. Since the Palestinian authorities will not cooperate, the Israelis are willing to bypass them and issue permits directly to the families at our request. But these children are all on mechanical ventilation and need an ICU ambulance to take them from the hospital in Gaza to the border with Israel–and despite the tearful pleas of the families, the ambulance services in Gaza so far are following the lead of their government and refusing to transport these children.
*UPDATE* As of Monday evening ambulances were arranged with the help of the Red Cross and the three children are safely in Israel: Khader to Sheba Medical Center, Kamala to Hadassah Medical Center, and Bayan to Maqassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.
2) Remember that Jews are no less sinful than Muslims. We–who believe the biblical message that the Jews were chosen by God for the redemption of the world–are all too easily tempted to partiality. And it’s true that over the last 25 years we’ve always found among the Jewish people respect for the value of every life, regardless of background. But the people of Israel are vulnerable to sin in ways different from their Muslim neighbors. Witness for example the enormous and growing pressure within Israel to deny the Torah commandments about human sexuality.
3) Take the log out of our own eye. Now that we’ve meditated on the sins of all our neighbors, do we dare to continue in complacency about our own sinful state? We must hear and obey the words of Jesus:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Friends, are we respecting the value of every life? How are we treating our neighbors, and our enemies? Are we consistently communicating love even to our own family members?
And how are we standing up to our own culture’s demands that we bow the knee and affirm that evil is good and good is evil? What kind of choices are we making in our entertainment? What kind of words are coming out of our lips from the overflow of our hearts? Will we also hear and obey the words of the apostle Paul:
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Our adversary is seeking through sin to overwhelm us and neutralize us, to keep us from loving our neighbors and advancing the kingdom of God through our lives. Let’s look to the example of Jesus: by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Jonathan for Shevet Achim
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).