Who is for me? and who am I for?

Last week there was an attack of sorts on the Trappist monastery of Latrun, in Jerusalem. Graffiti were painted on the outside walls, including the charming statement that “Jesus is a monkey,” and the main door was set on fire. The supposition is that it was the work of settlers/colonists evicted from the illegal hilltop settlement of Migron, in the West Bank, by the Israeli Defence Force; or perhaps of other Zionist settlers, the entire community of which was outraged by this action of their government in enforcing (not breaking: enforcing) the law.

One of the email items I received in the days following was from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, deploring the attack on their fellow-Catholics in the Holy Land, and demanding a full investigation from the Israeli government. This is fine–Catholics protesting the ill-treatment of their co-religionists, entirely understandable and reasonable. But it got me thinking about who we care about, who we stick up for, whose concerns we raise in the public sphere.

This train of thought took me back to the fall of 1977, when Roman Catholics were having a hard time in the old Soviet Union, and Pope Paul VI was protesting their treatment. However, many Jews were being given a hard time as well. I remember thinking at the time that the Pope’s protest would have been far more powerful if he had included the Jews in his statement to the Soviet government; and from that thought, I went on to ask myself why Jewish groups shouldn’t stand up for the Catholics, and vice versa.

Do you know the so-called Yorkshire grace (with apologies to anyone from there)? “God bless me, my wife, our John, our Susan, us four, no more. Amen.” It is one thing to stand up for/be concerned for/love one’s “own”–family, clan, tribe, ethnic or linguistic group. It is another and a higher/deeper thing to stand up for members of other families, clans, tribes and nations the rights of which are being violated. Once this is grasped, it becomes clear that our concern (like that of God’s, if I may make a theological assertion) must extend to the well-being of the entire human race, whether those for whom we speak up are very much like us or not.  If they are human beings, they are like us; and from this point of view, it becomes axiomatic that our well-being is ultimately inseparable from the well-being of everyone else.

On these grounds, I look forward to news items about Palestinians protesting any ill-treatment of Israelis, and vice versa. When/if that catches on, we will be half-way to peace in the Middle East.


Coda 1.  After sending this out, I remembered that a local rabbi had come to the monastery to offer his support–that’s what I’m talking about here.

Coda 2.  Just back from church. Heard a sermon on Mark 7:24-37–the story of Jesus’ meeting with the Syrophoenician woman. According to the preacher, this records the moment when Jesus, as a member of one tribe, and approached for help by a member of another tribe, intuited/realized/got the illusory nature of tribal boundaries considered from the point of view of the larger human community and human need–that’s what I’m talking about here.

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