Rachel’s Tomb, also known as Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, in Bethlehem, is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and yet, Israel allows only Jews to visit the site. Historically it’s been a place where those of the sacred Abrahamic traditions have recalled how Rachel “wept for her children.” As such, Rachel has become identified with all those who offer lamentations for children and the injustices from which they suffer – children of war who are driven into exile, homeless children at the mercy of food banks and shelters, those who suffer from gun violence, those who languish from our drug infested culture, and in the Land of Canaan, those who suffer from a cruel occupation in which even children are subjected to inhumane and, according to international law, illegal treatment. According to Defense for Children International – Palestine, “Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military (not civilian) courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights.” 17 year old Ahed Tamimi has gained international respect and recognition for resisting Israeli invasions into her home in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. As a result, she herself now languishes under military detention. The sound of Rachel “weeping for her children” can be heard in all Palestinian and Israeli mothers and fathers who yearn for a better future for their children.
These children need more than our lamentations; they also need our collective support. Thankfully, there are widely respected human rights organizations such as Defense for Children International-Palestine, Human Rights Watch, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem and many others who are bearing witness to the suffering of these children. Also, in recognition of how the fulcrum of change is here in the United States, in the court of public opinion, there is an opportunity for us all to respond to those lamentations. Although few in number, courageous legislators such as Congressional Representative Betty McCollum are allowing their voices of conscience to be heard. In legislation she introduced – HR 4391 “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children” -- Representive McCollum and her co-sponsors have given us an opportunity to give voice to our concerns, to do more than just wring our hands in despair. In a letter in support of HR 4391, Reprsentative Betty McCollum has said what needs to be heard from all our elected officials:
“Children as young as 12 years old are taken from their beds at night by Israeli soldiers and police. They are bound, blindfolded, and taken to detention centers. Under Israeli military law they are denied access to lawyers during interrogation, and even the youngest children are regularly denied access to their parents during interrogations. … With 40 percent of the Palestinian population under age 14, peace between Israel and the Palestinians starts with promoting the dignity and the inherent human rights of Palestinian children.”
Following this example, the time has come for all of us to respond to Rachel “weeping for her children.” In our speaker series scheduled for the Fall of 2018, Tree of Life will amplify the courageous work being done by human rights organizations as they respond to this crisis. Rachel has wept for much too long! This series of conferences will prepare us for how we can respond with courage, conviction and with hope.