I still have my orange scarf. No, it’s nothing to do with Ireland, or the March of the Orange, even if I am part Celt. Neither does my cosy souvenir hark back to any jaunts to Holland I may have made. Ten years ago this month, I was given my orange scarf along with dozens of other members of a prayer tour. We had all come to Jerusalem especially to pray for her peace, as the Psalm commands, and for deliverance from her enemies. Part of this prayer initiative was a trip into Gush Katif, as well as to Sderot and other besieged places along the Gaza border.We – a Christian group - weren’t the only ones wearing orange scarves at the time. Israelis were camped out, all around the Knesset, with signs and banners, all in orange for Gush Katif. I loved being part of the whole effort to try to keep at least part of Aza. After all, it is part of the Promised Land. There’s nothing more invigorating than being in solidarity with Israelis on something.
Even in terribly sad times, I find this to be true. I remember the day after the Dolphinarium bombing in 2001, just standing on the beach in Tel Aviv, close to the burnt out night club. My two friends and I had traveled down from Jerusalem, and we watched people lighting candles and grieving for their loved ones. The other two then returned to the hostel, but I wanted some time by myself to take it all in. In the weeks that followed I would have the opportunity to visit some of the families and to write about it all. But at that moment, with only the moonlight and perhaps some street lights nearby, listening to the lapping of the waves, my heart just cried out silently. I remember not knowing what to pray. The only thing I could do was tearfully recall a little song, “Bo Ruach Elohim, u-male et nafshi. Hadrech otanu k’yeladim, rak becha anu chafetzim. Anachnu mazminim otcha la-vo.” In the aftermath of utter darkness and despicable terror, all I knew and felt was a desperate need for the Presence of G-d. And after the residents of Gush Katif were taken from their homes, the light dimmed in Aza also. Just like so many Israelis, none of us from the prayer tour could understand how it could have happened. We prayed so hard, and in unity too. We made proclamations, like the verse from Amos: “I will plant them in their own land, never again to be uprooted.” I have a beautiful picture of a giant Hanukkia, set up on a bridge in one of the communities in the Gush. Just this past Hanukka, I looked at the photo again. How much the Jewish people have been through. But I learnt well the Israeli philosophy, even while visiting victims of terror. It was a young girl, a family member of one of the teens murdered at the Dolphinarium.
We were just crying together and hugging, and this little girl said to me, “Yesh tamid tikva” (There is always hope). I think I must have said, “Yesh adayin tikva” (there’s still hope) and then she replied. And I always think of her statement whenever Israel is hit again by terror. Nobody gives up. Seeing Bibi in the line in Paris yesterday was wonderful. I’m glad he could go, and so thankful that Ha Shem keeps him safe as we pray for him. But I wonder if any of the other world leaders in the row have any idea what he has been through. We in the nations have so much to learn from the Jewish State. Please God we learn fast. Just one more thing about the orange scarf: The saddest thing may not that Jewish people were taken from their homes by their own army, although this was so difficult for all concerned. And I’m sure it was so difficult for Arik. I loved him somehow. My enduring memory of him will always be the night at the Feast of Tabernacles when Roy Kendall sang, “Oh L-rd G-d of Israel” – the most moving song – and Arik just standing there, frozen to the spot, with tears rolling down his face. That was Sukkot, 2000. No, the saddest thing may well be the children that were left behind. In a way, “Good, leave them to it, if they want to turn Gaza into a hell hole!” But, the Palestinian children? Taking the stars of Abraham out of Gush Katif left the little ones with virtually no hope, no Maccabees. While there was Jewish enterprise, Jewish business, hothouses and the like.. believe me, I saw (and photographed) the incredible displays of flowers.. there was some hope there. “Haya tikva” (there was hope) aval (but) yesh adayin tikva? I’ll never forget the words of a compassionate Israeli-Jewish journalist friend. She would have to visit Ramallah and all sorts of places to interview people. She knew her Bible. She knew that the prophecies about Gaza do not bode well for the people living there. “We just have to pray for those children,” she said. “What will happen to them? Who can rescue them now?” Yes, we’ve seen the awful repercussions of the terrorising of the Gaza Strip. Many lives have been lost, especially during the past year. When soldiers started falling I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted for Israel to be able to go in and solve the problem, without losing any more boys. But the legacy of Jenin was all too memorable. One can easily argue that Israel should never have pulled out. But let’s keep the hope alive. Whenever you remember the orange scarves, remember the children in Gaza without hope. Let’s pray that many of them will be rescued from a culture of hate and indoctrination. Let’s pray that the ideology of child martyrdom and abuse be fully exposed to the world. Let’s pray that mighty Ruach Elohim (Spirit of G-d) will reach even into that dark place.