As war rages in and on Gaza, I find myself both desperately reading about what is happening, and at the same time so disturbed by the news and the images, that I can not bear to read or watch.
The husband of one of my Palestinian cousins that lives in the Middle East died last Saturday; of liver cancer. Yes, even Palestinians die of things other than war inflicted wounds. My image of this man, comes from a very tender recollection of an occasion when I had a chance to share a meal with him and with the family in Amman. His contribution to that meal was his own home made special dessert that is very traditional in Nablus, the city in the West Bank where his family is from. He rolled up his sleeves, dug in and produced a wonderful dessert for all of us to share.
Rula is just about exactly my age, and like me she also has 4 children. Our eldest children were born the same year, and our youngest were born within days of each other. Rula traveled by herself with her very young children when she was pregnant with her fourth child, so she could deliver him here, in the US. At the time, her brother was living in Texas. On her way back to Amman from Dallas, she stopped in Syracuse. She and her 4 children, ages less than 2 months to about 8 years stayed with me and my 4 children, same ages, for a very brief, but very sweet visit. That was the fall of 1991. I have not spent that much time with my Palestinian family, but that visit with Rula and her children was very special. She is an intelligent, loving mother, who wants all the same things for herself, and her family that the rest of us do, no matter where we are born or where we live. I did not know her husband well, but I do know and feel connected with Rula. And, what I know about them is, that theirs was one of those rare relationships of lasting love, enduring and growing over the years of their marriage. I did not hear how long Sami had been sick for, but I am quite certain the juxtaposition of his last breath occurring during the current carnage that is happening in Gaza is more than mere coincidence. The event of his death touched me in a way that almost felt disproportionate for my relationship with him. Yet, I understand it offers me the opportunity to shed the tears that so desperately need to be shed, and that are sometimes hard to find for the bloodshed that we see pictures of, but keep our distance from. Every time a member of my more distant Palestinian family dies, it is another reminder of the ongoing, never ending bloodshed in the name of ignorance, hatred, and cowardice. Another Palestinian who was not able to see a vision of peace or hope before the end of their life. Another marker in the timeline of useless ongoing bloodshed and war. Grief deeply felt for one. I cannot imagine the magnitude of the grief of so many. The human heart weeps, is helpless, knows not what to do, and answers its grief so unskillfully. Will we ever learn??