|October 15, 2023
Our Brothers and Sisters,
It has been a week since the horrific and inexcusable attacks on Israel by Hamas in Gaza. The first immediate consequence of the rockets and ground soldiers was the shocking realization that the world, and all of us, lost more of our Jewish brothers and sisters in one day than had occurred since the end of the Holocaust eighty years ago. And these deaths were not only the consequence of the rockets. Soldiers on foot slaughtered men and women and children at a music festival, in Kibbutzim, in homes, in their beds. The savagery of these attacks has defied the ability of the people of the world even to describe or comprehend them. The outpouring of grief by the Israeli people and Jews across the world has broken the hearts of all people of compassion and grace.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised in response to crush Hamas and end the influence of this terrorist organization forever. Already, access to food, water, fuel, electricity and medicine have been cut off from Gaza. We don’t know what is coming, but we know it is going to be bad, and that the toll of human suffering and the loss of human life has only just begun.
When I have been on pilgrimage in Israel-Palestine, I have asked Israeli and Palestinian scholars and leaders – Israelis and Muslims who are committed to peace in their land – how American Christians can support the peace effort, and I have been told by each and all of them, “support the Christians in the Holy Land.” Everyone understands that if the church in the Holy Land disappears, if the Christians all go away (which is a real fear), the prospects for peace become farther away and less realistic. It has moved and mystified me that people of other faiths have seen something in the presence of Christians which we may not always see in ourselves, and that that thing that they see has everything to do with hope.
In the days since the rockets were first fired I have had conversations with people who are horrified and terrified, but with the frustration as well of not knowing how to act in a positive way, how to help, how to make a difference. Pray. Because prayer changes things. Whether or not you believe that your prayers might make a difference on the violence in the Middle East, it is a certainty that they will make a difference in you. When, by your prayers, you lift up and hold before God all of these suffering people – those you love as your very own, and those you name enemy or adversary – you will surely find a conversion of heart and find within yourself courage, faith and strength to face and meet these most terrible of days with the possibility of love. And hope. Hope to trust that God is not finished with this world, and is not inactive even in the midst of war and horrible suffering.
Finally, there is a tangible, practical and effective thing which we can do right now, every one of us. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is in active engagement in ministry across the holy land, with a mandate not to align with a political agenda, but to serve Christian, Jew and Muslim alike through hospitals and schools and shelters, and at no cost. The best way to support them in that work is through donations to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and when you go to their website (https://afedj.org/) you will find a host of ministries to support, all of which are lifting up people of different faiths all together and meeting the most basic needs of the people across these lands. Across the top of each page of their website you will see a link to “Donate to Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.” The Ahli Arab Hospital is a Christian-run hospital in Gaza which serves, treats and heals people across all of the religions of Israel-Palestine. The hospital was bombed last week, but they are still functioning, and providing the most needed care at the most needed time.
Most likely terrible days are coming, but you can be blessed, and be a blessing. And bind up the wounds of our suffering brothers and sisters, and make a difference that may outlast this war. With every good wish, I remain
The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
Bishop of New York
The Right Reverend Allen K. Shin
Bishop Suffragan of New York
The Right Reverend Mary D. Glasspool
Bishop Assistant of New York