Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Romans 12:21
A few days ago, just after another suicide bomber boarded an Israeli bus and killed another group of innocent people, an American woman living in Jerusalem went to the Western (Wailing) Wall.
I was struck by the amazing scene before me, she writes. On the one hand, many were praying the Psalms and weeping. On the other hand, just over the divider between the womens section and the mens section, Bar Mitzvahs were taking place - joyous occasions when 13-year old boys take on the responsibility of living by the Torah.
There was a great deal of singing and dancing, and I couldnt help but think of Psalm 30:5, "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Even as Israelis buried more of their dead today, here were young men consecrating their lives to God.
While this woman watched the varied actions of the Jewish people, I was listening to a news report from an area not far from where she stood, and hearing a spokesman for the Palestinian organization, Hamas, say the following:
Your children are not safe. Your women, your husbands - everybody in Israel is a target now.
If this woman was struck by the difference between the mourners and the happy teenagers celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs, I was even more amazed at the contrast between the way two groups of young men in that part of the world - most suicide bombers are young men - embrace their faith. If, as many claim, Islams Allah and Judeo-Christianitys God are one and the same, why are the actions of their young men such poles apart?
I havent read the Koran; I dont know if words similar to the overcome evil with good message of one of our prophets appears in their Bible, too. But in an address to the followers of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Test-ament), which I have read, the Apostle Paul makes no distinction be-tween us and them:
Men of Israel brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles (non-Jews), it is to (all of) us that the message of salvation has been sent (Acts 13:16, 26).
To the words men, brothers, and children (of the same ancestor), I add the emotional words of a Jewish rabbi I once heard address a group of Christian students. Reminding us that Isaac and Ishmael, the two sons of Abraham, were the fathers of the Jewish and Islamic peoples respectively, he cried: What are we fighting for? Were cousins!
If the Roadmap to Peace between Israel and Palestine ever succeeds, it will be at the astonishment of the entire world. After the most recent handshake, and the dashing of hopes that dared to rise once more, there isnt much faith anywhere, or in anyones God, that the Middle Eastern cousins will ever live side by side in peace.
Thats why this experience at the Western Wall gave me at least a glimmer of hope. It would be easy to identify with the good guys or the good God, yet keep the denunciation and retaliation going, and justify our righteous killing machines until there is no one left to kill - just as it appears the Palestinians are doing.
But on the morning after that horrific bombing at least a few people in Israel believed what their God, their Torah, says. They know they have a choice between perpetuating evil with evil, or overcoming evil with good. The candidates for Bar Mitzvah chose the latter, and even the grief-stricken weepers were praying.
I wonder what the chances of peace - real joy in the morning - would be if more of us lined up behind those young men at the Western Wall, for a symbolic Bar Mitzvah, perhaps, and consecrated our lives to the God of the Torah, too.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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