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One of the earliest and most astonishing references to Gaza is by the prophet Amos who prophesied from about 775 to 750 BCE. In the opening verses of his Biblical book, he declares ‘for three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not forgive them: they took captive an entire group… so I will send a fire against Gaza’s wall. It will consume her fortresses…’ (Amos 1:6).

I had to read this twice to make sure it was saying that the ancient Philistines were guilty of the grievous evil of taking hostages. Whatever their other two or three sins, they pale into insignificance, next to the egregious act of evil, the kidnapping of a large group of people.

Gaza has once again written itself into the most shameful and ignominious pages of history. The fact that the kidnappings of Israelis and the brutal treatment of these innocents were part of a calculated barbaric attack only underlies the utter evil of Hamas.

Let us not forget what Hamas has unleashed, not only on Israel, but on the civilised world. The United Nations clamouring for a ceasefire need to remember just one thing: this war, and its terrible suffering for Jews and Palestinians was ignited not by Israel, but by the toxic evil of Hamas. An organisation that proudly asserts its intention to destroy Israel and kill all Jews, and is profligate in its disregard for its own citizens. Its toxic form of Islamism has little respect for our liberal Western values and lifestyles.

The message to Hamas by the self-righteous Europeans and hypocritical Muslim nations should be simple: if you want to halt the fire at your gates and the walls of your homes and tunnels, first release the hostages. My heart is broken each time I see the faces of the desperate captives, my heart shatters each time I see the faces of their anguished families.

In addition to this there are so many lessons we are learning from this awful war; here are a few:

  1. Never underestimate the evil that human beings are capable of. The cliché that we are all basically good is as dangerous as it is untruthful.
  1. Never underestimate the utter foolishness of humanity. Einstein put it best when he said, ‘Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe’. This is most evident in the denial of the barbarity and violent evil of Hamas by so many woke liberals and on progressive university campuses across the Western world, especially the USA. They won’t or can’t make a distinction between the radical perverted extremism of Hamas and the moral teachings of Islam. A lack of moral clarity and courage that is as chilling as it is ludicrous. The psalmist got it so right when he said, they have eyes, but they can’t see, ears but they can’t hear. They epitomise the words of John Milton in that they are simply ‘eyeless in Gaza’.
  1. Never let go of your humanity and compassion. I struggle with my outrage at Hamas and my anger at the refusal of the world to understand Israel’s suffering (a country traumatised and in a war with more than 250,000 citizens displaced and rockets still being regularly aimed at its civilians). I am full of rage at the blatant lies and antisemitism unleashed across the world and in our own Australia. But I will not surrender my compassion for the suffering of the countless innocents of my people and of the innocents of Gaza who did not choose this war and do not support Hamas. I have no pity for Hamas fighters and followers who have given up their humanity, but I weep for the children of Gaza they have endangered and abandoned as they hide like cowardly weasels in their tunnels and plant their weapons in schools, hospitals, and mosques. I mourn for Israel’s brave soldiers – the majority who are reserve citizens – fallen in their youth. I grieve for the families disrupted and dislocated both in Israel and Gaza. First World War poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote about the terrible cost and pity of war and its inescapable suffering – what choice did Israel have when attacked by an enemy that wants to eradicate it?
  1. Don’t let go of your hope and your belief in humanity. This war may have unleashed a tsunami of hatred, but it has also unleashed a torrent of love and generosity. The prodigious acts of goodness, kindness, and ingenuity are breathtaking. The Jewish people are singled out by God to be messengers of justice and righteousness. They are called on to join hands with all who believe in bettering our battered planet. So let’s hold on to hope and the Psalmist’s words echoed in Israel’s national anthem: Our hope won’t be lost!

Our prayers for peace and blessing to carry us into 2024.

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