I remember my father telling me when I was 12 years old, “As long as those Palestinians are in those refugee camps, there will never be peace in Israel.”
I remember the election of Pope John XXIII when I was 26 years old and newly ordained. He removed the offensive term “perfidious Jews” from the Good Friday petitions, and the relationship between the pope and the world’s Jews was probably best in the history of the papacy.
I remember in 1981 as a young pastor welcoming into my parish in the Midwest a displaced Palestinian family who had come all the way from the Middle East to find refuge.
I remember when I was 50 years old visiting Rome and having supper in “the Jewish ghetto,” where in the time of the papal state the pope had his troops lock the gates every night at sundown, thus enclosing the resident Jews until dawn.
I remember Jesus declaring, “Blessed are the peacemakers!”
I remember when I was 63 years old the peacemaker, the fifth prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords. Then he was gunned down by a right-wing Israeli assassin.
That same year, prior to Rabin’s assassination, I remember Benjamin Netanyahu leading a procession with a coffin and a noose at an anti-Rabin rally where protesters chanted “Death to Rabin!” The chief of internal security had informed Netanyahu of a plot on Rabbin’s life and asked him to curb the protest’s overtones of violence, which Netanyahu declined to do.
I am now 91 years old and there is no peace. And there is rampant and increasing antisemitism.
More than ever a clear distinction must be made between loving and supporting the Jews in Israel and disapproval of Netanyahu’s regime.
As recent popes have identified, we Christians are all spiritually Semites. And we share a common ancestor Abraham with Islam. We are all one in our shared humanity.
As Christians we must hope during this great darkness. Is peace even imaginable?
After 400 years of strife, hatred, and violence it came to Northern Ireland.
I remember that, and at 91, I still hope. ♦
William John Fitzgerald is a long-time contributor to Today’s American Catholic.