Can Light Come Out Of Gaza’s Darkness? – OpEd


The word Armageddon is the Hebrew Har Meghiddo, meaning “Mountain of Megiddo ”. Har Magheddon, which is 80 miles north of Jerusalem, is the symbol of a major battle in which, when the need is greatest and the believers are most oppressed, God reveals His power to His distressed people and their evil enemies are destroyed. 

Millions of religious people think that the road to Armageddon was started by the Hamas October 7 massacre, when 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel killing some 1,200 people and seizing 250 hostages of all ages.

Armageddon is a warning that people in the Middle East need to change to avoid Armageddon.

Gaza peace activist Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib has embarked on a one-man social media campaign to draw attention to the human plight of the majority of Gazans who are not involved with terror, and call for mutual recognition between Palestinians and Israelis in the hope that the two peoples will someday be able to share the same land in peace. He has published editorials in Haaretz, the Wall Street Journal, and The Forward, among others, and has laid out his vision for peace in his blog with The Times of Israel. His dovish advocacy efforts, has gained him a following of over 33,000 on X.

“There’s a reason why the Palestinians have no state 75 years after the establishment of Israel,” he said. “It’s their awful leadership that goes back to the pan-Arabism of the Nasser days, and that has adopted different ideologies – the secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], the Marxist PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], or Islamist Hamas – to sell different versions of the same narrative: We’re going to liberate all of Palestine.” Realists say this will never happen.

In Arabic, the word Jihad is a noun meaning the activity of “striving and/or persevering.” According to Prophet Muhammad there are two types of Jihad: minor and major. Once when Muslims were returning from a military expedition, which for Prophet Muhammad was a minor jihad. He said to the fighters that now they had to go through the major jihad. When Prophet Muhammad was asked what he meant by major jihad, he said it was the spiritual jihad. 

On another occasion, Prophet Muhammad said the real mujahid is the one who declares jihad against his/her carnal soul. (Tirmidhi). Exercising self-control and using willpower and reason to overcome one’s anger is described by Prophet Muhammad as “the major jihad.” Overcoming our own feelings of hatred, revenge and anger is much more difficult than overcoming our enemies.

In today’s world of fanaticism and extremism the words of Al-Ghazali, a 12th century Persian Muslim theologian, need to be repeated by all the world’s religious and political leaders: “Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – Egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Selfishness, Greed, Lust, Intolerance, Anger, Lying, Cheating, Gossiping and Slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see.”

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib says, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” I say we can make it truly aspirational by making it focus on both suffering peoples first; and the homeland second. “From the river to the sea, Palestinians and Israelis should be freed, from hatred and suffering, by ‘a two state for two peoples sharing of the land peacefully’ solution.”

As the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy said: “Hamas must be dismantled for Israel’s future, but also for the future of the Palestinians. Israel and the Palestinians must be liberated from Hamas. The world needs a Hamas-free space – from the river to the sea.”

There is some good news from Gaza. A group of highly respected academics and public health officials who authored a working paper on the amount of food entering the Gaza Strip during the war concluded that the supply from January through April was sufficient for the population’s daily energy and protein needs. Food delivered through crossings ‘provided for a mean of 3,163 calories per person per day’ for Gazans, 40% higher than the accepted humanitarian standard for daily calorie intake.

This significantly exceeds the widely accepted standard of 2,100 calories per person, per day established by the Sphere humanitarian organization, for the minimum amount of food aid required in response to a crisis.

The authors also found that the amount of food entering Gaza was “significantly greater” in the January-April period under review than in the pre-October 7 period.

Although it might seem impossible now, I do believe that within a decade or two Muslims will visit Jerusalem and pray together with Jews as Prophet Zechariah predicts: “Then everyone who survives from all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16)

For more than eight decades political nationalist leaders in Israel and Palestine have failed to find a way to end the conflict between their two peoples. Perhaps it is time for religious leaders who understand the religious importance of repentance, humility, forgiveness, compromise and hope for peace in overcoming more than seven decades of pain and anger. 

As the Qur’an states: “Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection. And Allah is competent, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”  (60:7) Then the words of the Qur’an will be full-filled “From the depths of Darkness into the Light; for Allah is very kind and merciful to you.” (Qur’an 57:9)

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou, a Professor at a university in Rabat, Morocco writes: “After the current (Hamas-Israel) war, Israel’s ultra-nationalist coalition will undoubtedly be undermined by public opinion, and probably by a commission of inquiry. If the Palestinian Authority were to agree to take over Gaza – backed by the international reconstruction aid that would inevitably arrive – and if a centrist coalition government were to emerge in Israel, everything would once again be possible. Two difficult “ifs”? Perhaps, but there is no serious alternative.” 

The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation-community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) 

If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah; then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided. 

Prior to the 20th century Arabs and Jews almost never make war with each other. Even the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria of the Yom Kippur War was followed six years later by a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. Could the same process follow the weakening of Hamas?

Prophet Muhammad said: “Should I not tell you what is better in degree than prayer, fasting, and charity.” They (the companions) said: “Yes.” He said: “Reconciling people, because grudges and disputes are a razor (that shaves off faith).” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmithi)

This is an excellent guide to dealing with the three-generation old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than focusing mostly on what the other side did to us, we all should focus on how the conflict has hurt all of us, and how much better our future would be if we could live next to each other in peace. 

If the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael negotiate a settlement that reflects the religious policy that “…there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement [reconciliation and peace] is best.” (Quran 4:128)  

The Nakba (catastrophe), the displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel and the War of Independence, could have been totally avoided if the Palestinian leadership had accepted the UN two state solution. 

Indeed, if the Palestinian leadership had accepted the British 1937 two state solution; millions of Jews would have been able to escape the Holocaust (catastrophe). Hopefully, the Palestinians will not make this all or nothing mistake again.

If we all can live up to the ideal of following the will of God we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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