Hope this email finds you well.  We've enclosed an article for the
church newsletter. Please feel free to use as desired and edit as
needed.  If there's someone else we should be sending this to, please
let us know.

Salaam Al-Messiah (Peace of Christ),
Marthame and Elizabeth

When Thereís Nothing Left to Say

Weddings and funerals bring headaches for pastors. Every family goes
through them, bringing along (and often airing) their emotional
baggage.  Pastors must simultaneously minister to and work with
emotionally-charged families to create a worship service. A difference
between the two is that no one expects a eulogy at a wedding.  They may
expect all kinds of things ("Wind Beneath My Wings" as a congregational
hymn, taking "that depressing cross" out of the sanctuary), but no one
expects you to lie about a family member.

Textbook eulogies run along these lines: "John was a good man, a kind
man, a gentle man. [Imagining the preacherís drone helps.] We will
always remember him as a loving father, a doting husband, a faithful
son." The truth perhaps, but more likely kernels of truth strung
together with white lies; the person who actually walked on water comes
by rarely. Such hagiography is unlikely to be heard by, or console, the
alienated son, first wife, or estranged friend.  To avoid this, some
pastors strip it down to a bare-bones biographical sketch.  The reason
they are there, after all, is to lead a service that worships the
divine, not the deceased.  The emotional details can be filled in by the
admiring and the estranged alike.

Others choose another way, one that ventures to find something about the
person that reflects the imago dei, the image of God, the divine spark -
a moment in Johnís life that tells of a truth beyond him, whether he
himself was capable of reaching it or not.  Picking up on John's love of
hiking and bird-watching, the eulogy can point us toward the splendor of
creation and renewed awe for its Creator.  A faithful eulogy can lead us
beyond the example of the deceased toward divine truth and grace.

Here in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the divine seems
extravagantly absent.  In the past seventeen months, 300 Israelis have
been killed by Palestinians.  For a population of five million, thatís
the equivalent of a World Trade Center attack five times over.  1100
Palestinians have been killed by Israelis - 37 WTCs.  A lot of eulogies,
but we hear very little truth or grace.

"The Israelis shoot us with their helicopters and F-16s and tanks and
missiles, but we Palestinians donít have anything. We only have
stones."  "The Israeli military actions are strictly in self-defense. We
never take the offensive but act only in response to terror." Crumbs of
truth, perhaps, but obscured by not-so-white lies. The whole world sees
nightly images of the latest Palestinian attacks, sometimes aimed at
soldiers, and sometimes not, killing and maiming civilian men, women,
and children.  Here, we also get nearly hourly reports about victims of
the Israeli army - policemen and fighters, children in their classrooms,
doctors in their ambulances, pregnant women on their way to the

These people's deaths become justification for more killing, fueling the
bloody cycle of revenge. The violent response and re-response becomes a
living eulogy that points away from mercy and peace, towards hatred and
pain. Itís as if the pastor said, "Johnís life stood for vengeance and
blood-letting."  We might as well dance on his grave.

However, amid the bloodshed and lies, we continue to find that spark,
that bold soul willing to try to display grace and truth.  Nearly one
thousand Israeli reservists have refused to serve in the West Bank and
Gaza, citing not only the dangers of such service but its illegality and
immorality.  Thousands of peace activists gathered in Jerusalem just
hours after yet another suicide attack.  In contrast to Arielís Sharonís
commitment to "hit the Palestinians harder," these Israelis proclaimed
that enough is enough - "get out of the Territories and back to
ourselves," they cried.  Internationals and Palestinians bravely
continue to join in non-violent actions throughout the West Bank and
Gaza, staying with families under siege, removing the roadblocks that
strangle Palestinian villages, standing in the way of bulldozers poised
to knock down homes, all in the face of tear gas, arrests, and live

These testimonies are a living eulogy that defies the cold logic of
revenge.  It is here that we see the imago dei, a spark of hope so
desperately needed in this dark place. We pray that it is these words
and actions of grace and truth that will prevail.  Then together we can
finally bury this violent nonsense once and for all.

Salaam al-Masiih (peace of Christ),
Elizabeth and Marthame

Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders are American Presbyterians working in the
Palestinian Christian village of Zababdeh.