While it is good news that a ceasefire, after days of hateful carnage, has been reached between the Israelis and Palestinians, everyone knows, based on history since long before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, blood has flowed continuously with its intense current of hatred.
Today is my adopted son’s birthday.
For him, his wife and children, this is a joyous day of love. Truly my heart also is filled with love for him. He is joy for my heart.
I see a direct connection between fatherhood and the failure of Israelis and Palestinians to love one another, to forego resentment, to accept the reality of history, to learn to live together.
We all know both as parents and as persons love and pain are inseparable.
Children grow and in the growing process begin to separate from their parents, become full-fledged adults. Frequently this process is filled with misunderstandings, miscommunication, sometimes, on both sides, a type of rebellion and deep hurts.
As a husband, father, businessman, faithful practising Catholic, enormous are the demands on my son and, if as he does, he keeps things in right order then as his dad I must, with fatherly love, accept the fact the times when he and I can have father/son time, as the years go by, become less and less.
Often this is very painful for me to accept and I need always be on guard against two emotions which can poison everything: resentment that he has no time for me and anger because I let myself be in bondage to resentment.
The challenge as parent of an adult son is to accept with joy and gratitude whatever time he can give, knowing always that the love between us is stronger than any difficulty, is gift to be received with joy.
How does this apply to the battle between Israel and Hamas, the persistent conflict between Arabs and Jews, between Islam and Christianity?
Fatherhood, or rather in the current context of local and global conflicts, the failure of men to be true fathers.
I cannot conceive ever putting my son’s life nor the lives of his wife and my grandchildren at risk because I hate someone else and want revenge.
Since time immemorial blood feuds have only resulted in the extension of feuds far into the future, often so far that the current feuding parties have only handed down distorted memories of the origin of the feud.
When, for example, Islamists harken back to the crusades as justification for the blood soaked hatred of the West, Muslim men are placing their wives and children at risk when they kill the innocent women and children of the West, triggering retaliation just as when Hamas targets Israel it is Israeli women and children who suffer and so Israel targets Hamas and it is the women and children who suffer throughout Gaza.
No sane person will deny history.
Both sides during the period of the crusades did much evil, as both sides prior to and since 1948 have done.
The litmus test for a real man and a real father is how manhood and fatherhood is exercised.
What is the prime gift I chose to pass onto my son[s]?
Hatred, revenge fuelled by edited re-telling of ancient feuds – or – such a profound sense that love is stronger than hate, that a real man is as courageous in protecting his family as he is in seeking peace and reconciliation.
All the blame-game has achieved in the Middle East, and indeed in all conflicts which murder so many women and children, is the perpetuation of hatred and the spilling of innocent blood.
Surely there must be some real Israeli, some real Palestinian men and fathers who will approach each other as brothers and say we will no longer hate, we will no longer tell our children stories of hatred, we will no longer be revengers but as courageous men we will be peace-seekers, peace-achievers so our wives and sons, our children will no longer live in fear.
I know the heart of my own son is a true man’s, a real father’s heart and I am very proud of him.
May every man, Israeli and Palestinian, Christian and Muslim, men of faith, men who have no deity, become real men, real fathers, protectors of women and children.