An Israeli family during the Hamas attack on Ashkelon, Israel. Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/AP

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!  — Isaiah 5:7

My siblings in Christ:

I know you join me in lamenting and grieving the devastating losses resulting from Hamas’ savage, unjustifiable terrorist attack against Israel beginning on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. By Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian deaths had exceeded 2,300.

As followers of the Prince of Peace, our first and best instinct is to pray, and pray hard: for those who have died and been injured; for those most at risk from continued violence; and for all who have the power to end the suffering by ending the violence.

We also lament every missed opportunity for an equitable peace in Israel and Palestine, year after year, epoch on epoch, that could have kept this outrage from the pages of history. We pray for the transfiguration of the agony of these terrible days into a relentless determination among leaders of good faith to make sure it never happens again. Experts on multigenerational conflicts say they end only when the suffering becomes unendurable to all sides. That this may be such a moment in Israel and Palestine is the moment’s only salutary feature.

This is not the time to make political points beyond saying that all in the region deserve freedom, peace, security, and national self-determination. It can be done, if everyone gives something up. This includes those of us observing from a distance who love the Holy Land, follow its politics, and are passionate about our views. It is time for us to lower our voices and stop choosing sides.

At the same time, as people of faith, let us stand our ground on the immorality of murdering noncombatants and taking hostages. No historic grievance or trauma can justify what Hamas did. By the same token, Israel must do all it can to spare civilians in the hours, days, and weeks ahead.

As we pray for peace, seek wisdom, and hold power to account, let us keep a special place in our hearts for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its archbishop, the Rt. Rev. Hosam Naoum, our Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles keynoter last year at convention and a respected leader in the Arab Christian community in Palestine. I’ve written to him on the diocese’s behalf, offering prayers and support. For his sake and the sake of all whom he serves so faithfully, always preaching peace with justice, reconciliation, and the power of Jesus’s love, please join me in making a gift to American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which supports the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City.

Yours in Christ’s love,

The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor
VII Bishop of Los Angeles