Letter from an Ashamed Elder (Emeritus)

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I have just celebrated my 85th birthday! Hooray! Congratulations to me! (As though I had anything to do with it…as though I could, by my own will, add even one hour to my span.) Blessed be the Lord who has enabled me to see this day!

Getting old has its weird moments: like the day when I was holding my four year old granddaughter on my lap. She looked up at me while we were laughing about something and asked “Grandpa, what is all that hardware in your mouth?” Or asking someone else to pour the wine on Shabbat because my hands are a little more shaky than usual. Yes, there are some unpleasant changes, but there are some perks as well! Two of the good things that can come with age are perspective, and its related concept, separating the issues. It is in regard to those things that I wish to speak.

We are in deadly danger! This word “we” includes: our people, our nation, and most importantly, our faith communities. The danger is our abysmal neglect of biblical principles and our silence in the face of the normalization of systemic evil in our society. (This is an up-front David Loden cry for justice… those who wish to bail out should do so now!) What is “systemic evil”? It’s like a certain virus that we all know of… so microscopically small at the beginning, but growing into a lethal monster which can, and will… kill… us!

Why am I an “ashamed” elder? Because for far too long I have kept silence on issues that have torn my heart to pieces. I am married to an amazing godly woman. Lisa reads the news, crosses the lines, talks to the people, weeps bitterly, and then speaks out! I do also, except for that last item; I have been loquacious in private, but shamefully silent in the public forum. I can’t be silent any more. We have to talk. We have to ask the hard questions. What about settler land grabs? What about the Nation-State law? What about midnight raids, sniper contests, and lack of justice for those who identify as Palestinian? What about Eyad Hallaq? What about equal rights? What about hundreds of Palestinian children in military detention? The list is very long.

I will say again what I spoke publicly thirty years ago. (It was not received well then… we’ll see about now.) If we as ambassadors of the King of Kings, do not speak out against the evil and injustice in our society and our Land, God Will Judge Us! If we keep silent, the stones will cry out! Even more important, the Judge will cry out! And we don’t want to hear that cry! We should remember where the judgement will begin. So then…

About perspective — What is really important here, to save face and not offend people, or to be the biblical and moral compass so desperately needed today in Israel?

About separating issuesWhat do we stand to lose? Many things: face, respect, our “honor” and perhaps income (G-d Forbid!) Perhaps even our personal safety. What do we gain? We have a good example: “Look unto Him…” (Hebrews 12:2,3) There! I thought I might have to write without even one quote from Scripture… but now I feel better.

May the Lord forgive my unwise speech, when I should have been silent; may He forgive my silence where a voice was needed! May the Lord forgive me, and empower me to “…turn from evil and do good!” (Psalm 34:11-14)

Following is a poem written by my wife last week. With her permission, I’m including it as an expression of pain and challenge to open our eyes.

Brother
Three hundred
sixty-five
times six days
almost.
You walked.
the same steps
the same journey,
the same companion
no expectation
of difference.

The same sun-bright
heat-shimmering waves
sheening from
the same stones
the same guards
the same guns
sentinels on the same walls
the same armed defenders
walk your same path
each day the same

Autistic brother,
beloved son.
for you no difference
soldiers, Arabs, Jews
the same.

Hand-held
your telephone
ready, waiting
mayhap to hear
your father’s voice
your mother’s tones
the same day voices
familiar as the stones
worn, polished
underneath your feet.

This day, changed
shouts, sounds,
your ears accosted
fear surrounds,
overwhelms.
Terror chased,
you seek safe space.
You race,
a blind flight escape
from rains of living fire.

No refuge
from the chase.
Seven times bullets
breach the boundaries
your young flesh bleeds red
amidst the rubbish.
No shield
no shelter found.
The garbage room
your final destination.

The streets, the walls the same
the guns, the guards the same
they never saw
will never see
the rareness that was you.

June 2020 © Lisa Loden