Palestine, Pain, and Peace

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2024
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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Some days, I read about the pain, and just pray and wonder. Can any good follow? Sadness fills the Middle East, especially Palestine, where Christ walked, taught, died, and was raised. Here Christians, Jews, and Muslims live – and die – together. The sadness is deep, even for those who try. Yet in sadness seeds of hope often lie.  

In 1898, a poet named Richard Watson Gilder penned a collection of poems, entitled “In Palestine.” His poems trace his travels, faith, and want for peace.

The first poem, like his book, is called “In Palestine.” He describes standing on the Mount of Olives, as later my feet did – where Christ stood, seeing what Christ saw.

“At last, the very land whose breath he breathed, the very hills his bruised feet did climb! On this Mount, he stood, as I do now…with the same surprise, into the startling blue he gazed, same quick human wonder struck his holy vision …Something within me trembled. This picture once was mirrored in his eyes.”

So, 125 years ago, as in centuries before his poem, people pondered the region’s meaning, a giant hand reaching out, hopeful but never closing, on a lasting peace.

In his poem, Gilder says what we might say: “This troubled country, troubled then as now, wild and bloody… this is His own land.” The irony was palpable.

Here is where the greatest hope of Mankind touched down, where Heaven and Earth met, where God Himself walked among us. Here is where the fiercest religious convictions ever held lived and live, and yet … no peace.

For those who think this is just about faith, maybe it is, perhaps peace always involves faith. But there is more to all this. There is science, too.

Recent, credible, genetic, incontrovertible studies show local Christians, Jews, and Muslims across the region are – beyond the “Blood of Abhram,” almost cousins. The data is all out there, profound, provocative, and hard to disavow.

Thus, one study: “Investigations based on binary Y chromosome polymorphisms suggested a common origin for Jewish and non-Jewish populations living in the Middle East,” and a “recent study of high-resolution microsatellite haplotypes demonstrated that a substantial portion of Y chromosomes of Jews (70 percent) and of Palestinian Muslim Arabs (82 percent) belonged to the same chromosome pool.” Imagine that.

Does it matter? Should it? Yes, perhaps it does and should.  It demonstrates how sadness works, how division is seeded, rooted, and grows – of human making, two children born and swapped at birth more alike than different, yet … no peace.

So, in all the sadness, where is the hope? You may say, “Fine, human differences have torn the region apart, religious differences shredding it now, but where – in all of that – is hope?” The question is timely, and it answers itself.

A region with so much intensity, so much to protect, so much history and blood in common, so much passion for being right, cannot be forever defined by hate. This region, where Christ walked and taught, revered by all faiths, cannot be left to rot.

If there is anywhere a history of struggle and hope, transcendence, and rising above what pulls us down, going from hopelessness to something far better, it is here.

So, what needs to happen is about hope and faith in a time of darkness, resurrecting faith in what is possible, the belief that with an effort the hellish state to which Man has again reduced things is reversible; that men with differences can live in peace.

Is that so hard, hard to conceive? It has been, and sometimes is. But the goal is worth aspiring to, worth reaching out for, and trying to close upon, leaders need to do that.

Wrote Gilder: Humans are “hated, shattered, spurned .. But faith that lives forever is not bound to any outward semblance… or fear of never-ending pain. True faith doth face the blackness of despair … It loves where all is loveless; it endures in the long passion of the soul … for God.” He might have added, for God and peace.

Point: Only when things are truly dark, when hope seems nowhere, death, fear, and hopelessness abound, do we gain strength, work for the peace within; and like a person, only a region wracked can cease – to look for peace. Some days, I read about the pain, just pray and wonder.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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