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Do you love the idea of living on “island time”?

Susan and I had looked forward to joining this year’s planned Good Faith Experience to Hawaii’s Big Island. We booked our flights, along with a side trip to Oahu, last November, but COVID-19 uncertainties forced the cancellation of the larger trip.

We decided to go anyway. Why not?

Closing in on the Kailua-Kona airport, the pilot happily suggested that passengers should join him in looking forward to some “island time,” sitting by the pool with an umbrella-adorned drink.

“Island time” implies carefree days of sleeping late, doing little, and not watching the clock – or the news.

But why go all the way to Hawaii to sit by the pool sipping mai tais, or lie on the beach with no more to think about than what restaurant to visit for dinner?

It’s my Type A kicking in, I guess, but I never saw vacations as opportunities to rest so much as chances to see new things and have new experiences – not to mention close encounters with feral goats, wild pigs, small Indian mongooses, and food trucks selling shrimp by the sea.

All in all, we spent a lot more time in hiking boots than bare feet. We explored trails between beaches, through rainforests, along mountain ridges, and inside Kilauea’s volcanic crater.

It was delightful, if not overly restful. We came away with happy memories and a boatload of idyllic pictures, but here’s the thing: While trying to “get away” and relax in a beautiful setting, we couldn’t get away from the knowledge that America remains so polarized it’s practically paralyzed, and that Israel and Gaza were at it again.

In Israel, the conflict has many roots, but the latest hostilities were sparked by the Israeli government’s persistence in unlawfully evicting Palestinians from their ancestral homes so they can replace them with orthodox settlers, this time in East Jerusalem. There’s only so much pushing around a people can take.

The Hamas government in Gaza is so hemmed in by security forces that it believes its only realistic method of expressing dismay – beyond unheeded appeals for justice – is to fire volleys of indiscriminate rockets toward Israeli cities.

Shooting rockets at innocent people is a bad thing, even if the rockets have more shock value than firepower.

Israeli bombing of a civilian building in Gaza 2021. (Photo: Osps7 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 / https://tinyurl.com/3fuvv8nb)

Israel responded by pounding Gaza unmercifully with hundreds of air strikes, destroying many blocks of the impoverished city and killing far more civilians – including women and children – than were harmed by the rockets from Gaza. After 11 days of fighting, 243 people were reportedly killed in Gaza, including more than 100 women and children. In contrast, 12 people died in Israel, including two children, according to the BBC.

One could argue that highly inequivalent retaliation is a worse thing.

Here’s one problem among many: Hamas embeds its military leaders and rocket launchers in highly populated areas, using its own citizens as human shields. Rockets and other military supplies are stored in miles of tunnels dug beneath civilian neighborhoods.

That’s bad.

Israel feels compelled to take out military targets but can’t do so precisely enough to avoid collateral damage, especially when collapsing tunnels take out the houses of innocent civilians above.

That’s also bad.

It’s dirty fighting on both sides, with Palestinians always suffering the most.

I love the land on which both Israelis and Palestinians live, and I know and love people in both communities. I can’t endorse the rocket attacks, but I can understand the desperation felt by Palestinian people who are continually exploited by an Israeli government that honors its most radical wing over the land’s most vulnerable people.

The Israelis finally agreed to a cease-fire, but not before being satisfied that Hamas’ ability to fire any more rockets was severely crippled for a long while.

If there is to be peace in Israel, something more than the quiet following a severe beating and a call to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” is desperately needed.

It will require a serious shift in Israel’s fractured government toward respecting international law, doing the right thing, and treating Palestinians with respect in the occupied West Bank as well as in Gaza.

That won’t happen without increasing international pressure, especially from America, which has long been willing to provide beefy military aid while turning a blind eye to the state of Israel’s refusal to honor past agreements and its ongoing usurpation of Palestinian land.

That’s due in large part to fundamentalist Christian leaders and the politicians they influence. Some want there to be war because they think it will bring on the second coming of Christ.

A larger portion mistakenly believe the promise in Genesis 12 – that those who blessed Abraham would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed – means Christians are obligated to support the modern state of Israel’s secular government, as well.

Many have yet to understand and acknowledge that “Israeli” and “Israelite” are not equivalent terms. The covenant people of the Hebrew Bible and the current state of Israel are very different entities.

In Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, as in any other country, our primary concern should be for justice when vulnerable people are oppressed.

It’s not “island time,” but it’s about time.

A side note: if you’re interested in joining the next Good Faith Experience trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, it’s planned for May 21-28, 2022. Our next Good Faith Experience in Israel and the West Bank is planned for May 26-June 5, 2022. Get more information about these and other experiences here.

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