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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Joy in the Mourning | February 25, 2024 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake


“He was killed in one sense because mankind is not quite human yet.”

– Howard Thurman

Penned by Dr. Howard Thurman in a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the words above have been an unsettling companion. Frequently, they transgress the territory of my mind and spirit adding to an already challenged equilibrium. The assassin, who fatally pulled the trigger and felled King, was not acting alone but was conducting the will of many in the nation, a nation that could not fully embrace nonviolence as a way of reconciliation. A nation born in violence has for years had over eight hundred military bases around the world. The global bully we are, an addiction we cannot seem to relinquish. Thurman words sting badly and frequently because we behave badly as a nation. We have not the political/corporate will to change.

In The Night Country, Loren Eiseley wrote: 

The long history of man, besides its ennobling features, contains also a disruptive malice which continues into the present. Since the rise of the first neolithic cultures, man has hanged, tortured, burned, and impaled his fellow men. He has done so while devoutly professing religions whose founders enjoined the very opposite upon their followers. It is as though we carried with us from some dark tree in a vanished forest, an insatiable thirst for cruelty. Of all the wounds man’s bodily organization has suffered in his achievement of a thinking brain, this wound is the most grievous of all, this shadow of madness, which has haunted every human advance since the dawn of history and which may well precipitate the final episode in the existence of the race.

Cruelty is so commonplace it seems natural rather than repugnant. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Western Civilization, and he responded:  It would be a good idea.

I bow to the program, Democracy Now, which comes to me each morning via KPFA radio. Yet, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to listen to it. Every day more Palestinians are killed. It’s heartbreaking to listen to the massacre of innocent people and the devastation of a people’s land. Babies, young children, teenagers, adults, elders, schools, hospitals, nurseries, and international health workers are massacred with weapons of mass destruction supplied by our nation, the United States of America. Biden timidly suggests minimal restraints. Netanyahu rejects them and still, the missile and money flow.


By Jeffrey St. Clair / CounterPunch

First Hind Rajab went missing, then her rescuers.

But missing isn’t the right word. Hind is missed. So are the people who tried to save her.

So much depends on using the right words now. On being precise.

Hind didn’t go missing. Her rescuers didn’t go missing.

Hind was trying to escape. Her rescuers were trying to save her.

But you can’t escape from a tank in a small black Kia. Not a tank filled with soldiers who’d fire on a small black Kia, driving away from them. Not a tank armed with the latest explosive shells provided on an emergency order by the US government. Not a tank that would shoot at a frightened young girl.

Six-year-old girls who like to dress up as princesses in pink gowns don’t simply go missing in Gaza City these days. They don’t just disappear. They are disappeared.

Hind Rajab was in her own city when the invaders in tanks came. What was left of it. By late January, 60 percent of the homes in Gaza City had already been destroyed by Israeli missiles and bombs. Hind’s own kindergarten, which she’d recently graduated from had been blown up, as had so many other schools, places of learning, places of shelter and places of safety in Gaza City. (78% of school buildings in Gaza have been directly hit or damaged amid Israel’s incessant bombing, according to a new report by The 162 school buildings directly hit served more than 175,000 kids.)

But to be a child in Gaza City now is to be a target. There are no safe streets, no sanctuaries. The places where you once felt most at home are now the most likely to be bombed. There are no escape routes. Every corner you turn might put you face-to-face with a tank or in the laser-sights of a sniper or under a Hermes drone.

Hind was missed, but she wasn’t missing. Hind was hiding. Hiding in a car shredded by shrapnel and bullets. Hiding in a car with dead and dying relatives: her aunt, her uncle, three of her cousins. Hiding in a car bleeding from wounds to her back, her hands, and her foot. Hiding with her 15-year-old cousin Layan Hamadeh, who was also hurt, bleeding and terrified.

Layan had grabbed her dead father’s phone and called the Red Crescent Society. She begged them to come rescue her and Hind. “They are shooting at us,” Layan pleaded. “The tank is right next to me. We’re in the car, the tank is right next to us.” Then there was the sound of gunfire and the line went silent. The dispatcher asked, “Hello? Hello?” There was no answer. The connection had cut out.

The Red Crescent operator called back. Hind answered. She told them Layan had been shot. She told them everyone else in the car was now dead. She stayed on the line for three hours. The dispatcher read her lines from the Koran to calm her.

“I’m so scared,” Hind said. “Please come, come take me. You will come and take me?”

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine your daughter picking up the phone from the dead hands of her cousin, who’d been shot to death only seconds before right in front of her?

The dispatchers told Hind to keep hiding in the car. They told her that an ambulance was coming. They told her that she would soon be safe. Hind had been able to tell Rana Al-Faqueh, the PRCS’s response coordinator, where she was: near the Fares petrol station in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Her own neighborhood. She told them the entire neighborhood seemed to be under siege by the Israelis.

It was approaching 6 in the evening. The street was now in shadows. It had been three hours since she and her family had been shot. Three hours in the car with the bodies of her dead relatives. Three hours under fire with darkness closing in.

“I’m afraid of the dark,” Hind told Rana.

“Is there gunfire around you?” Rana asked.

“Yes,” Hind said. “Come get me.”

Then the line went dead again. This time for good.

An ambulance had been sent, but it never arrived. Her rescuers came for her, selflessly entered the zone of fire, but never reached her. Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamada, had gone to the hospital anxiously expecting her daughter any minute, but she never showed up.

Before the ambulance was dispatched, the Red Crescent Society told the Gaza Health Ministry and the IDF about Hind’s call. They told them she was a frightened, wounded six-year-old girl in a black Kia that had been mangled by tank fire. They told them where she was and that an ambulance was coming. They asked that the ambulance be given safe passage to Hind.

After they’d coordinated a plan for her rescue, the RCS dispatched an ambulance crewed by two paramedics: Ahmed al-Madhoon and Youssef Zeino. As Ahmed and Youssef approached the Tel al-Hawa area, they reported to the Red Crescent dispatchers that the IDF was targeting them, that snipers had pointed lasers at the ambulance. Then there was the sound of gunfire and an explosion. The line went silent.

A frantic search began for Hind, Ahmed, and Youseff. But no one could enter the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. No Palestinians, at least. Not even to find a little girl. Not even after the tapes of the harrowing calls for help by Layan and Hind had been made public. The IDF had sealed it off.

When CNN reporters, whose deferential posture toward the Israeli regime has recently been detailed by the Guardian, contacted the IDF about Hind and the two paramedics, giving them the coordinates of the car, the Israelis said they were “unfamiliar with the incident described.” Four days later, CNN inquired again about the fate of Hind, Ahmed and Youseff and the IDF replied they were “still looking into it.” The Israelis didn’t look too deeply into “the incident.” The evidence was right before them, done by their own hands, likely captured on footage from their own soldiers, tracked by their own drones.

It would be 12 days before the Israelis withdrew from Tel al-Hawa; 12 days before anyone reached Hind, whose body had been left by the Israelis to decompose in the black Kia next to Layan and Layan’s father and mother and her three siblings (also children); 12 days before anyone discovered what happened to the ambulance sent to rescue her; 12 days before anyone found Ahmed and Youssef, left where they had been shot.

The headlines in the corporate press said Hind’s body had been “found.” But found isn’t the right word. Hind wasn’t missing. Her rescuers knew where she was and were killed because they almost reached her. The Israelis knew where she was, right where they’d killed her and her family. The media made the double massacre sound like a mystery. But there was nothing mysterious about it. By late January, the killing of Hind and her family and the Israeli attack on a Palestinian ambulance had become routine. Since October, at least 146 ambulances have been targeted by the IDF and more than 309 medical workers killed.

Who will rescue the rescuers?

The massacre on that street in Tel al-Hawa took place three days after Israel had been put on notice by the International Court of Justice that it needed to stop committing acts of genocide, stop killing civilians, stop killing children and health care workers – a ruling that Israel has not just ignored but openly defied. Instead, Israel blames the victims of its atrocities. Tel al-Hawa was a closed military zone, the IDF says. Any Palestinians moving on the streets were legitimate targets, the IDF says. The rules of engagement were those of the US troops at My Lai: shoot anything that moves. Even young girls and the paramedics who rushed to treat their wounds.

The black Kia, its windows blown out, the body of the car gashed by shrapnel and riven with bullet holes, was found by Hind’s relatives exactly where Layan and Hind had said it was: right next to the gas station. It was found where it had come under fire from an Israeli tank. It was found near the PRC ambulance that had been sent to rescue Hind, itself shredded by Israeli tank shells and gunfire.

Was Hind alive to see the ambulance approach? Did she think she was finally going to be brought to safety? Did she watch her rescuers come under fire? Did she witness Ahmed and Youssef be killed by the IDF? Was she still alive, alone, as the sky drew dark, left in the chill of the night, knowing now no one was coming to save her?

It’s an excruciating scenario to contemplate but think about it we must because the pleas of Layan and Hind have given voice to an awful abstraction: 13,000 murdered children in Gaza.

We don’t know most of their names. We don’t know how most of them were killed. We didn’t hear their screams for help in the enveloping darkness.

But Layan and Hind have spoken. We have heard their last words, piercing through the gunshots around them, words that still resonate across the weeks, as Israel prepares its assault on Rafah, the last refuge of 600,000 displaced Palestinian children, many sleeping in tents after fleeing their bombed homes, most of them surely feeling just like Hind: “I’m so scared. Please come, come get me…”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

Zechariah 8:4-5 NIV

While channel chasing earlier this week, I found the movie The Oxbow Incident. Set in Bridger’s Well, Nevada in 1885, the rumor spread that a rancher has been murdered and his cattle stolen. A posse is formed to find the murderers. One man, Davies, joins thinking that he can perhaps stop the hanging which he feels is certain to come. The posse finds three men, awakens them from their slumber and immediate accuse them of the murder and theft. They will not listen to any explanation and are determined to hang them. Davies and others raise questions about justice and the law and argue to take the accused back to town for trial. The leader of the posse finally calls for majority rules and invites those opposed to step forward. Seven men step forward including Davies. Davies implores the young man who says he bought the cattle and did not shoot the rancher to write a letter to his wife about what is happening and that he would deliver it to her. He does this. The three men are hanged. When the sheriff arrives the posse proudly reports the lynchings. The Sheriff reports that Kincaid, the rancher was not dead and those who shot him had been arrested.

The letter to the wife:


"My dear wife,

Mr Davies will tell you

what's happening here tonight.

He's a good man and has done

everything he can for me.

I suppose there are

some other good men here too,

only they don't seem

to realise what they're doing.

They're the ones I feel sorry for,

cause it'll be over

for me in a little while,

but they'll have to go on rememberin'

for the rest of their lives.

Man just naturally can't take

the law into his own hands

and hang people without hurting

everybody in the world,

cause then he's not just

breaking one law, but all laws.

Law's a lot more than

words you put in a book

or judges or lawyers or Sheriffs

you hire to carry it out.

It's everything people ever

have found out about justice

and what's right and wrong.

It's the very conscience

of humanity.

There can't be such a thing as civilisation

unless people have a conscience

because if people

touch God anywhere,

where is it except

through their conscience?

And what is anybody's conscience

except a little piece

of the conscience

of all men that ever lived?

I guess that's all

I've got to say except,

kiss the babies for me

and God bless you.

Your husband, Donald"

What a beautiful soul that was taken much too soon. His letter strengthens my frustration. Unjustly condemned to die, his empathy and understanding are profound. There was something else ennobling in the film. Seven men did stand up and said no. They did not stop the hangings, but they did honor their own souls and consciences touching the God of Life and the consciences of all that had ever lived.

When I step back from my mourning, my concern about the Israeli war against Palestinians in Palestine and the dreadful laws being passed in our nation, there is joy. The joy that millions of people all around the world are saying no to that war and other wars around the world. It is amazing to read about or see people from diverse walks of life protesting the inhumanity:  Jewish Voices for Peace, Rabbis occupying legislative chambers, and Israelis raising their voices in protest. No, we have not stopped the madness. There is no cease-fire, not even in the Russian-Ukraine War. There is, however, a cease-fire within us. Imagine that! Millions of souls passionately and resoundingly saying not in my name. June Jordan said to the women of South Africa: We are the ones we have been waiting for. And we definitely are. I honor all the healthcare workers in Gaza who risk their lives every day to bring aid. Many have lost their own lives. Is this a crucifixion, a giving up of one’s life to bring salvation to others?

This is the Lenten Season that calls to consciousness the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness readying himself for the life that was uniquely his to live, not his mother’s life or anyone else’s life. It is a time for each of us to examine anew who we are and what we should do with the one precious life we have been given. I have help this year from an unanticipated source in accepting the strength of Divine Presence. Birds have elevated my spirit and gratitude with their chirping. Perhaps, I was home more this week than usual. I don’t know why my flying companions chirp, whether it is communication with others, reminding them that have a voice, and/or giving back to their source of life a song deep within. Whatever the reason, the chirping raises me up. I saw a small fellow today resting briefly on a telephone wire above my yard. I look at its throat, a small thing to produce such volume, awakening, and cosmic support.


Goodness Will Be Goodness


Tyrants will roar their victories,

painting red dreams

on the lids of the nation—

And kindness will be kindness.

Sharp-spooned greed

will scoop out the soft places

leaving only hunger—

and mercy will be mercy.

Fear will cry its hot misguided wrath,

shocking sleepers into dread—

and courage will be courage.

Brutality will shake its tiny fist

gloved thick with power;

people will be killed in shameful ways,

the storms of grief and rage will howl—

and goodness will be goodness.

In the end, no matter the deceit,

no matter how compelling,

we can’t be broken from our truest selves—

we always circle back around

and find our honor where we left it.

Our people, our whole world’s people,

our many-colored threads

stretched tight in warp and weft

between that which knows

its own goodness

and that which does not—

will claim the land again for our children

and the enemy’s children, too,

mending finally all the tears

in the cloth of who we once and still

so dream of being.

                - Kalia Mussetter


Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.

—Bryan Stevenson





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