Compassion in Action

I lived in Gaza for 9 months (September 2012 through May 2013) and I’m on a journey to return for an indefinite stay. Frankly, I want to move to Gaza. At the age of 61, friends and family understandably ask me WHY?!?

My blog Why Gaza? is my simple but inadequate attempt to provide an answer.

The following three questions, posed by a Professor of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, reveal a kernel of truth behind my desire to return to Gaza. Maybe if I can answer them, my friends and family will understand my “obsession,” as some have called it.

How has knowing Palestine and struggling for peace and justice in Palestine made me a better person?

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Yes!  I am a better person. I instinctively knew it upon my return to the States in May 2013. Not a “holier than thou” better person; not a smug “I know more than you” about the Holy Land better person; and certainly not a wiser “I have all of the answers to the conflict” better person. I’m a newcomer to the Israel-Palestine tragedy, more motivated than ever to read, listen and learn.

I’m a better person because I witnessed compassion in action, and I believe I’m a more compassionate person as a result.

The Golden Rule has been my guidepost most of my adult life (even though I admit to being an imperfect role model) but I never truly understood or appreciated its significance until my visit to Gaza.

Compassion and concern for others appeared to be infused in nearly every act of kindness I witnessed between family members, neighbors, professional colleagues, store clerks, farmers and even the taxi drivers. The Golden Rule came to life for me amidst the death and destruction following Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Under the most challenging of circumstances (the decades-long Occupation, 8+ years siege, and multiple Israeli bombardments) I thought it was astounding that everywhere I turned in Gaza (1.8 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip) I found people struggling together but with open hearts and hands to help others. What was in the water they were drinking?

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

As best as I could tell, their compassion is not motivated by personal reward or expectation of gratitude. Instead, it seems to be in their DNA. I wanted some of what they were drinking.

Karen Armstrong’s Charter of Compassion is what I’m talking about. She’s calling for nations and communities all over the world to adopt a global compassion.

Surely, the Palestinians in Gaza are fallible human beings struggling with their own internal demons, as we all are, but I witnessed something there that I haven’t seen anywhere else. “Empathy for the other” is the only way I can describe it. Israelis could have the very best neighbors if the Zionists would only acknowledge the impacts of the Nakhba and end the brutal and illegal Occupation.

My friends and family will surely roll their eyes upon reading this. I can hear them saying: “Those Hamas terrorists certainly aren’t compassionate. The militants firing rockets into Israel don’t concern themselves with the innocent lives they put in danger!”

Setting aside the argument of who is and isn’t a terrorist, certainly violence in the name of resistance is just as counter-productive as violence in the name of self-defense. And more to the point, violence directed at innocent civilians by either side is a violation of international law — definitely not a sign of compassion.

This, I am sure — Israelis and Palestinians need to connect in deep and meaningful ways to be able to express the Golden Rule and share their compassion with each other and with humanity. Keeping one group locked up behind gates and walls and military checkpoints, and the other group immobilized by their fear and ignorance of the other, is not a path on which the Golden Rule will flourish.

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

Connecting the dots started over thirty years ago for me when I became actively engaged in building a world beyond war. Check out Beyond War: A New Way of Thinking. Since then I’ve worked both professionally and personally on climate justice issues, social and economic justice campaigns, and joined the Occupy Movement in September 2011. I wanted to learn more about the Palestinian struggle for justice after I visited Gaza the first time in 2004. My opportunity finally came in 2012.

My understanding and appreciation of the Palestinian struggle came as a result of my earlier intellectual and spiritual growth, not the other way around. Although young New Mexican activists have opened my eyes to the common  struggles engaged in by the indigenous Peoples in New Mexico and the indigenous Peoples in the Holy Land, I have known for many, many years that “We Are One.”

WeAreOne-Med

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Consistent with my belief that “we are one”, I know that the future of the planet and the Holy Land belongs to everyone: Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and those who follow no religion. I don’t believe anyone has superior rights, but everyone has basic human rights to life, liberty and justice.

I’m drawn to the Palestinian struggle because the Israeli Occupation is so patently unjust and illegal. My spiritual heart and my legal mind want to help correct the injustices I see occurring every day in Gaza. Until the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are allowed to live and flourish in dignity and with justice, all of us will be poorer human beings on this small planet.

The Challenge:

Now I’m going to challenge my friend Pam Bailey to ponder these three little questions and share her answers … and to follow with a challenge to another person to do the same.

Lora Lucero

April 24, 2015

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2 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

2 responses to “Compassion in Action

  1. Reblogged this on daninstockholm and commented:
    words fail me at how very human this writer is. Beautiful compassion fills every sentence.

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