Ahli Arab Hospital entrance. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

News reports, supplemented by word from friends in the region, say that many hundreds died today, including refugees sheltering inside, when a rocket struck Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The Episcopal News Service has not yet reported a casualty figure.

Initial media reports blamed Israel. An Israeli official has blamed an errant rocket fired by a Hamas ally. Ten other hospitals in Gaza City report damage since Israeli strikes began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which killed 1,300, many of them noncombatants, including children. This is the third time in less than a week that Ahli Hospital has been damaged by rocket attacks.

As global events unfold, it is hard to know what to do besides pray. But for us Episcopalians, as well as for our Jewish and Arab siblings, friends, and neighbors, the war in Israel and Palestine is a local story. Referred to as al-Ahli in some reports, Ahli Arab Hospital is part of the The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Archbishop Hosam Naoum. Those who have been lost or injured need our prayers, and the hospital will need our financial donations urgently in the weeks and months ahead. These can be made by visiting the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem website. Please consider making a recurring gift.

After praying, after donating, let us also grasp for understanding. The maelstrom of escalating crisis is not a good setting for our arguments about Israel and Palestine. All who love the region and its people, especially if we have had the privilege of visiting as pilgrims, have our passionately held beliefs. When the war drums are quiet, it will be up to all people of good will to do all we can to demand that all in the region are granted the inalienable rights of peace, freedom, security, and national self-determination.

But whatever our views, we can agree on one thing. It has been a cardinal value of Christian ethics for centuries. We must insist that all in power, especially those making military decisions during wartime, do everything in their power to protect and care for noncombatants. This includes the release of all hostages, making sure that Gaza’s internal refugees get food, water, medical care, and shelter, and taking the utmost care to make sure that the innocent are safe from airstrikes.

That taking these steps imposes difficulties on military tacticians on both sides does not relieve decision makers from their moral responsibility to protect the innocent. All humanity must be of one voice in deploring intentional attacks on noncombatants or intentionally putting them in harm’s way. Does anyone doubt that our God in Christ so commands us?

As you pray, please consider keeping this prayer and litany close by in the days and weeks ahead.

Loving God of all the earth, we pray for those who perpetrate injustices in the Holy Land, regardless of their motives; we pray that you will change their hearts and fill them with the spirit of mercy. Teach us all the pathways of peace and forgiveness. Spirit of comfort whose glory covers the face of our earth, comfort the oppressed, give shelter to those who have lost their homes, and let your peace dwell in every heart. With thankful hearts we pray in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

God of peace, we pray for the people of Palestine and Israel in these perilous and dangerous times.
For all who are fearful for the safety of their loved ones and themselves, we pray that the assurance of unfailing love, even in the midst of danger, settles upon them. Shelter them from despair and protect them from harm.
For all who are wounded, we pray they find healing. For all who have died, we pray they find rest.
For all who grieve, we pray they find comfort.
For leaders on all sides, we pray for a renewed will to lay down arms, for the strength to put the grievances and wrongs suffered by their people to rest, and for the conviction to embrace a path of reconciliation and peace that preserves the rights and dignity of all your children.
God of mercy, help us to remember there is no border that can separate us from your great love and protection, no stone that can sound the well of your deep mercy.
God of justice, we pray with hopeful hearts that your beloved children of the Holy Land will be spared a future of sustained violence and unrest and that a recognition of the humanity of all people will prevail.
We ask all this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.