Spoiler Alert: Some of my Jewish friends may not like what I’m about to say.
All week, I’ve been observing and listening and sitting with the commentary regarding the awful tragedy of the three Israeli teens who were murdered in the West Bank. I debated whether to write about it because frankly, I don’t want a firestorm. But I also feel that it’s important to add meaningful perspectives to the conversation. So here goes.
The whole story is awful. Three boys gunned down in their youth. It should never happen. It is heartbreaking.
But wait. They were hitchhiking in a politically fraught area, identifiably Jewish in a place where angry Arabs might well pick them up. Yes, hitchhiking is acceptable in Israel. But there’s always a risk.
Keep in mind that I trust Israel’s government almost more than my own. I am a huge defender and supporter of Israel and will adamantly reprimand anyone who starts to point the finger of blame at the Jewish nation. I know it is my one safe haven in this world and I will do anything to protect and ensure its existence and success.
Still. Israel blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, and then the killings. Hamas denied it. Hamas admits to its terrorist acts in a sick proud way. They denied it. Huh.
It’s become a political story now, emblematic of strife in the region, and has become a rallying cry for Jews around the world. To hate Palestinians. To blame. To feel as if these boys were our own and those who kidnapped them were beasts with a premeditated plan to gun down the Jewish people.
I wonder, if this happened in France, in Australia, in Indonesia, would these same people be as upset? Would they care at all? Would they say one thing in defense of the families whose boys were kidnapped and killed? Would they vilify President Obama for not doing more or saying more?
Or would they stay silent?
Ask yourself: if teens from somewhere else were senselessly persecuted in other areas of the world, would you speak out or would you stay silent?
This morning I sat with Mark Stutrud, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, a client whom I admire greatly. We were at WDET 101.9 FM for the purpose of Mark speaking with Craig Fahle about refugee resettlement, given the surge in Iraqi refugees with this latest escalated violence, and the huge stream of unaccompanied refugee minors coming across the border from Central America.
All week, I’ve fielded emails from people who have a problem with the United States welcoming refugees. Complaining that the reason they are out of work, out of a home, or in other unfortunate circumstances is because of these people coming into our country. They want to shut the doors, turn everyone away.
I don’t understand it.
At the same time, I don’t see any of my friends who are so upset about the Israeli teens’ murder talking about teens fleeing violence and persecution in Central America and coming here, hoping for safety. Do we only care about our own brethren? Do they have to look like us, talk like us and believe what we believe to make it of interest?
When I was in India this past winter, I had the opportunity to visit an incredible orphanage and meet the children I would come to sponsor. For $350 per child, I can assure that they are clothed, fed and educated for a year.
At lunch after our tour, I broke down in uncontrollable tears. I wanted to take every child home with me and make sure they are loved, fed, clothed and encouraged. Nurtured. Given a chance.
Those children had dark skin and black hair. They look nothing like me or my family. But my heart wept for them, as if they were my own.
When I met two teenagers who had bounced around through 8 foster homes and wanted nothing more than for someone to adopt them, someone to permanently love them, I cried again. They were not from my community, and they didn’t look like me, but I wished I could take them home and tell them everything would be alright.
I’m not perfect. I don’t scream the rallying cry for all the injustices in the world. I rarely read or watch the news because I just can’t stomach all the gruesomeness that’s reported.
Still. We cannot wag our fingers in judgment of others until we can feel as if every single wronged person is our kin. We cannot scream and fight and defend and accuse when it suits us. Shame on us. We are the most privileged people in the world. How dare we sit back and kick off our shoes in the face of turmoil and tragedy and fear in parts of the world that somehow we can’t relate to.
When these children come across the border from Central America, they are without parents. Some have been abused on the way. Some ran from gunpoint, leaving their homeland, with the hope that they’d end up somewhere safe.
I never had to do that. Thank God, my children don’t either. Although they don’t look like me and I cannot relate to their situation, my heart can open to them. And I can donate or volunteer or somehow spread the word to get them help. In some meaningful way.
That is our responsibility as humans. It’s not enough to be upset about our own people in circumstances that are atrocious and scary. We are not truly elevated until we can stand up in the face of every injustice, everywhere. Until we do something to help others. Until we make something of our lives by making the world a better place.
That’s why we’re here. Not to cling to our own community in an isolated manner and shut out the rest of the world, pretending we are different. No.
We are on this planet to leave a legacy and make a difference. To improve plight wherever we see it, in whatever way we can.
I can’t adopt all the lost children. But I can use my God-given talents to tell their story and rally as many people as possible around helping them.
And I can stand up and take the attacks that will come from saying, wait a minute, be incensed about everyone, not just about your own people. Hit me with your best shot. When you believe in something, and you are strong enough to say it, that’s the first step toward making a difference.