20 September 2020
COMPASSION BREAKS DOWN BARRIERS
Dear St Johns People
As we look at world events at present there is a real tendency for people to withdraw into “tribal” or like-minded groups when faced with difference.
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10] he was challenging our attitudes and our fears towards strangers and those who are different from us. The media however thrives on the fear of difference for its drama and stories. The following story was not reported in our media but made a huge impression in Israel
Adapted from the NY Times
DAHRIYA, West Bank — The Palestinian doctor was on his way to Jerusalem to join in Ramadan prayers when he made a decision that many in Israel found inspiring: He helped save the lives of Jewish settlers.
Dr. Ali Shroukh, 45, was driving with his brothers along a West Bank road on Friday when they came upon a car that had flipped over onto its roof. The vehicle was easily identifiable as belonging to a Jewish settler. The car had crashed after a Palestinian gunman fired on it, killing the driver, Rabbi Michael Mark, 46, a father of 10. His wife was critically injured, and one of the two children in the car, a teenage girl, was seriously wounded. Dr. Shroukh did not realize that he was witnessing the aftermath of a terrorist attack. His instinct was simply to help.
His response was an act of kindness in a conflict that is often bereft of it, particularly amid the violence of the past nine months, when Palestinians have killed more than 30 Israelis. Over 210 Palestinians have also been killed, many while committing an attack or intending to do so. Who is treated, and who is not, has been a particularly contentious issue.
Israelis have accused Palestinian medics of ignoring wounded Jews. Palestinians and human rights activists have documented several instances in which Palestinian attackers or would-be attackers were left unattended by Israeli medics and subsequently died. Dr. Shroukh rushed to help the Marks after seeing their overturned car.
Since the news of Dr. Shroukh’s selfless actions broke, international and local news media have beaten a path to his tiny urology clinic in Dahriya, a rural border town. His phone continues to ring with Israeli officials who want to thank him. In an interview, Dr. Shroukh said politics were not on his mind on Friday after he was issued a one-day permit to enter Jerusalem. He wanted to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the last Friday of Ramadan. At a bend in the road, he saw a Palestinian man diverting traffic around the smashed vehicle. The man called out, “there’s a wounded girl in my car.” The man and his wife had put the girl in their car while they waited for medics. The couple had been trying to comfort the Marks’ daughter Tehila, who was injured. Dr. Shroukh compressed the girl’s wound with a towel. Then, Dr. Shroukh and his brother checked the vehicle for survivors. They found Rabbi Mark dead. His wife, Chavi, 44, had a serious head injury and was unconscious. Dr. Shroukh and his brother smashed open a window and extracted her. Soon after, an Israeli ambulance came to attend to the victims and take them to a hospital.
Then the reality of the conflict sank in: A Palestinian medic who had arrived urged the brothers to leave. This was an attack, not a car accident, he told Dr. Shroukh. Israeli soldiers could arrest him, suspecting him of being an accomplice because he was not dressed as a doctor and was covered in blood. Vengeful Jewish settlers could attack him, thinking he was the gunman. The brothers drove away. Even so, Dr. Shroukh said, he left only after he was sure the victims were being cared for. It was his duty to help, even if he thought he was at risk. “It doesn’t matter if somebody is a settler, a Jew or an Arab,” he said. “Thank God we helped them.” They reached Al Aqsa Mosque in the evening, breaking their fast and praying.
The small moments of compassion did not end there. During Rabbi Mark’s funeral, as some mourners shouted, “Revenge! Revenge!,” one of Rabbi Mark’s sons asked them to leave. When some people described Arabs as “murderous” and “scum of the earth” on the Facebook page of Rabbi Mark’s daughter-in-law, she responded by writing that Palestinians had tried to help, too. The Palestinians “stayed with them in those difficult moments,” wrote the daughter-in-law, Yiska Mark. “I think you should write terrorist, and not Arabs.”
Rabbi Kelmanson asked about the Palestinian doctor who had tried to save his uncle’s family, then began weeping. “Tell him thank you, thank you, from all my heart,” he said.
Jesus told us to show compassion for our neighbour.
It takes away fear and breaks down the boundaries of fear. People see one another with new eyes and that changes everything.
Love God and love one another
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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