Abraham would be proud

Ready for some good news regarding the Middle East?

I am not even talking about the Israel-UAE deal.

It is happening in the Washington DC area. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are working together to save the lives of Palestinians.

Since early June, several congregations — the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society, Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA, and St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church— as well as other important area congregations and Interfaith organizations -- have joined together in an ad-hoc Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for Ventilators for the Palestinians. 

The mission is simple: raise money to provide 20 top-of-the-line ventilators and ancillary equipment to ICUs in hospitals across the West Bank and Gaza. Those ventilators will treat Palestinians who have contracted COVID 19. 

How did this project start?

Through Project Rozana, an international NGO working to strengthen ties between Israelis and Palestinians through health care. (Full disclosure: two of the main actors in this enterprise are my friends, Ken Bob and Mark Anshan). The request came from Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki of the Palestinian Authority.

Yes, you read that correctly. The request came from the Palestinian Authority.

Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel is also involved, training medical personnel at the Palestinian hospitals in use of the equipment.

Why is this so crucial?

Because even as the relationship between Israel and the UAE has improved, the relationship between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is -- well, let’s just use a common Israeli metaphor — ba-sherutim — in the toilet. 

But, you don’t need an advanced degree in Mideast studies or geography to know the obvious truth: whatever else happens, Israelis and Palestinians are joined at the hip in a land that they both love, which is the size of Maryland. 

Forget the politics, for a moment. 

Look at human beings. 

The moral money is in Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.

Look at our texts — especially the oft-quoted ones. You know — love your neighbor as yourself. Or, if you save one life, you save an entire world. These teachings are not exclusive to Jews. They are the common inheritance of all the children of Abraham. 

Funny thing about pandemics: they couldn’t give a you know what about national borders. Or, for that matter, religious borders. The Israeli singer-songwriter Ishai Ribo sang about how COVID 19 is uniting "Ishmael [the ancestor of the Arabs]; Edom [a poetic metaphor for Christianity}, and Israel [the Jews]."

A spike in the virus on one side of the separation wall endangers the health of people on the other side. Israelis and Palestinians can only contain the coronavirus if they work together. 

The Government of Israel has endorsed this effort. Project Rozana and allied NGOs have already created a vibrant network linking thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who work together every day to improve the quality of life for both peoples.

In so doing, guess what has happened? They have come to know each other as individuals. They have built ties of friendship and trust. 

Yes, often peace comes piece by piece. 

It’s not only that. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected relationships between American Jews, Christians, and Muslims. 

But, guess what? You work together, and magic happens. Politics, even theology, recedes into the background. We simply wind up doing what God/Allah needs us to do. 

So, who are the main actors in the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for Ventilators for the Palestinians? Rizwan Jaka is chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) in Sterling. The Reverend Anne E. Derse is Deacon of St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church in Bethesda. My friend and colleague, Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, serves Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA.

As they have said: "We stand united in the goal of helping Israelis and Palestinians build a happier future in which the well-being and human rights of both peoples are nurtured and protected. We are in this effort for the long haul."

Right about now, Abraham is smiling.

Because he likes seeing his "kids" working together.