If We Take Sides
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace…” – Isaiah 52:7
I write this shortly after Hamas launched their deadliest assault on Israel and the IDF responded with airstrikes; now thousands are dead on both sides. Over one hundred and fifty Israeli civilians, of all ages, are hostages. At least a thousand Palestinian children are dead. The suffering is unimaginable.
I am an outsider to this conflict, but it seems to me that until shared suffering inspires an understanding of the other’s pain and trauma, instead of driving more violence toward each other, peace will seem like a pipe dream.
Thich Nhat Hahn, who has stood between two warring factions, said, “To reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. If we take sides, it is impossible to do the work of reconciliation. And humans want to take sides. That is why the situation gets worse and worse.
“Are there people who are still available to both sides? They need not do much. They need do only one thing: Go to one side and tell all about the suffering endured by the other side and go to the other side and tell all about the suffering endured by this side. This is our chance for peace.”
In recent decades, small groups of Israelis and Palestinians found a way to peaceful reconciliation through shared tears. From what I understand, it takes a deep, resolute commitment to listening with compassion and without reacting. Multiplying such experiences might be the surest way to break the cycle of violence and build lasting peace in the region.
And not only there. Until we all hear the suffering of “the other,” how can we hope to hear peace proclaimed from the Holy Land to our own backyards?
Holy One, help me to listen more than I desire to be heard.