When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’
Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
~ Mark 15: 33-39
[above: Pietá Rouge,1956, Marc Chagall (1887-1985)]
At the Foot of the Cross in Gaza:
A Good Friday lament
This Good Friday afternoon, as I finished my Easter sermon about meeting the Risen Christ at the margins, the Breaking News update flashed across my computer. The feared violence in the borderlands of Gaza had broken out. “Israeli Military Kills 15 Palestinians in Confrontations on Gaza Border” – NY Times
Today, March 30, is Land Day in Palestine. The protest camps along the borders, most of them put up in peaceful protest from today through Nakba Day in mid-May, were to be non-violent gatherings of families, a “Gandhian protest” (as one report put it) of land, stolen and freedom, denied. And of the on-going denial of the right to return to land taken seventy years ago in Palestine’s Nakba. The Catastrophe, or what Israel considers its Independence Day.
If ever there were images of continuing crucifixion of a people, they are the photos which have filled my screen in the last hours. I could only gaze and weep. And then lift my voice here in protest and outrage.
And for those families and communities in Gaza, there will be the silence of the tomb, the wrenching grief. The angel of death did not pass over for those 15 people and their loved ones. The long road back from the bullets’ injuries will bring yet more anguish.
The tightening force is destroying a people, their land, their livelihoods and economy. Cutting off a future for their children, as it has been cut off for their parents and the older generation. Always blockaded by military presence.
First, it was the US media with its bias of blame, followed by reports from Palestine directly, from journalists and bloggers and from phone calls to family there in Gaza, at home. Here are some of those reports not familiar to most Americans:
Yet once more, the Palestinian community has had the military might of Israel rain down upon them, at the margins, in an open-air prison where there is no way out. Yesterday the news that 100 Israeli sharpshooters were positioned along the border meant that there would be violence. Guaranteed. Such an action was an incitement to violence, threatening, and with little restraint. The orders were “shoot to kill.” Hopelessness and rage cry out for expression. It does not take much to spark the expression of violence after so many years and years of colonial oppression. Some reports of intentional incitement of Gazans have been reported.
The response here? The media outlets in the US have normalized the situation, blaming Palestinians for “starting” the violence. The newspapers and TV reports have focused on stone throwers and fire bottles, as if such responses are somehow to be evaluated in the same way that tanks, sniper guns, military armor and kill orders are. It is only a few minutes here before the 6 o’clock news ensures that we see Palestinians as haters and killers, and the military operations defending themselves as the justification for live and rubber bullets, tear gas and soldiers aiming guns into crowds.
As I write, over a thousand have been injured and 15 Palestinians killed. Not one IDF soldier is reported harmed. With protection of bunkers and guns that can fire at great distance, plus shooting any Palestinian that came near the fence, how could they be harmed? Palestinians had no such protection, no such armor. This is not a battle between equals. it was the massacring of the hopeless. A young Palestinian farmer was standing on his land, but too close for Israeli comfort, apparently. He was gunned down without raising a hand or making a threat. Others were simply “in the way” of shoot-to-kill soldiers.
We members of the Israel Palestine Mission Network do not condone violence, and we uphold the call to non-violent resistance. God knows that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have committed themselves to non-violence and resist their oppression and colonialization daily, in many ways. But we will not participate in normalizing reports which equate the political situations of the oppressed and the oppressor, or the vast contrast of weapons the at hand.
It is still Good Friday here in my corner of the world, though it is past midnight now in Israel and Palestine. Over there in Gaza, the crucifixion goes on and on. Today I could only look and pray with Jesus his last words from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How long can Gaza be among the most forsaken places of the world and protest, even violent protest, not rise up?
Look at the eyes of men and women in the photos from Gaza.
See the face of forsakenness.
And then, there is the silence of the tomb that echoes from Gaza to my laptop and across the globe. I weep for those families. I pray for the nearly 1500 people injured who cannot be cared for properly because of the blockade of medical supplies and electricity. How well will their wounds be tended to with such scarcity?
I will still look for the Risen Christ at the margins in the Easter story, for the One who died at the hands of deal-making governments looking to enforce the peace of the day, the Pax Romana of the occupation. Mark’s Gospel tells us that the Risen One has gone home to Galilee, to be near the people who knew him best and for whose sake he came. The Risen Christ is somehow there in Gaza. This afternoon those affirmations feel like ashes in the mouth.
But there is still the silence after the gunfire and tear gas.
How long, O Lord, will the world let this go on?
Rev. Katherine Cunningham,
IPMN Steering Committee
[click on photos above for sources]