A letter to a leader

Dear Mr Netanyahu

It is unlikely that you will ever see this letter but I write it nonetheless. One of the people I work with here in Zimbabwe has just returned from seven wonderful days in the Holy Land.

Even this title for your country might not be accepted by everyone – just as which bit is Palestine and which bit Israel is also not agreed by all who live in the ‘promised land.’

My friend, coming from Zimbabwe, was utterly astonished by the political backdrop that loomed over every step of what she thought would be a spiritual pilgrimage. Days after she is back here she is till stunned at the security and the way she had to cross and re-cross frontiers in a ‘modern’ state. She could not believe the size of the wall being built between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

I know the politics behind it: the two thousand years and more of being ruled by foreigners, the traumas of the twentieth century, the setting up of the Jewish state in 1948, the wars and bloodshed of subsequent history. All of this explains your determination to never – never again – be at the mercy of other nations. It explains the support you receive from Jewish people all over the world and the influence they exert on their governments to pursue policies beneficial to your country.

But what is so hard to understand is why you, who have suffered so much at the hands of others, now impose your will on people who for generations have lived in the very part of the world you now call your own. You have moved many of them out of their homes just as you were moved out of your homes in eastern and central Europe in the last century. Surely you of all people know the futility of force.

It is so hard to understand why you do not follow your own Hebrew scriptures with their compelling message of a ‘God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness’ (Exodus 34:6) and the message of the later prophets, ‘Jerusalem is to remain un-walled’ (Zechariah 2:8) because the ‘nations are coming to your light’ (Isaiah 60:3).

But I am dreaming. There is no evidence I know of that you or your advisors spend time on such thoughts. My letter is like one drop of rain on a tin roof. Your patterns of thought, dear prime minister, and your frames of reference are so different. You have no time for anything that does not start and end with that all embracing word ‘security.’ But I humbly submit that the God of your ancestors and mine calls you to build your policies on another word, ‘compassion.’ Until we learnt to let the sufferings of others touch us we will for ever compel ourselves to live behind higher and higher walls.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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