Bishop Graham said, “It was an honour to be present to show my care for the Jewish population of this fine city. The Torah portion for the day spoke movingly of life and death: God breathing life into Adam’s nostrils and the first murder when Abel is killed by Cain. The silences during the service were filled with a strong sense of community.”
He was particularly moved by a poem, An Isaiah Appendix, by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:
Don’t stop after beating the swords into plowshares, don’t stop!
Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them.
Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into plowshares first.
After the service, Bishop Graham was invited to address the congregation. This is what he said:
“Shabbat shalom. שַׁבַּת שָׁלוֹם
I join you today to stand with the Jewish community in Norwich and around the world in your shock and grief. When we thought we had seen the worst of the atrocities of last Saturday, we have continued to see new footage that turns our stomachs.
It is an honour to be with you, dear friends. I bring the condolences of Anglicans in the Diocese of Norwich at this time of trauma. Not only do you know loved ones, friends, or friends of friends who have been killed, injured or kidnapped, or have been called up, or daily live in fear, you also live with the prospect of antisemitism here and the fear that engenders. I pledge to do all I can to protect your religious freedom.
These have been deeply dark days where only evil has smiled. I can’t begin to imagine the suffering of those impacted, including those waiting to hear the fate of loved ones.
I can’t get their faces out of my mind.
I was in Israel last Saturday as the deadly attacks took place and left on Tuesday by land to Amman, following the cancellation of different flights.
The previous Thursday I had spent a day looking at a wetland rewilding project in the Jordan valley. As a UK Patron of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), I am proud of all that that organisation is doing, including in partnership with the Jordanians, along that critical bird migration route. The scenery was wonderful and the bird life spectacular.
Life changed for us 36 hours later and I discovered for myself something of the fear that Israelis live with when the sirens went off in Jerusalem and we took shelter, hearing the rockets being intercepted overhead or exploding on the ground.
I have shared in the anger felt by the people of Israel at the cruelty they have experienced. Many around the world share in that anger.
A week last Wednesday I was in Gaza, crossing with the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, to visit the Anglican-run Ahli Arab hospital. I met incredibly dedicated doctors and staff. I toured the hospital, seeing brand new cancer diagnostic equipment provided by the Augusta Victoria hospital in Jerusalem. I shared in a delicious Palestinian lunch, and heard from a handful of the 1000 Christians left living in Gaza.
I can’t get their faces out of my mind either, especially with the bombing this week and as we contemplate a ground offensive in Gaza. Half of the 1.2 million being ordered to move today are children. 5,500 women in Gaza are due to give birth in the next month. Many of the patients I saw are too ill to be moved, and the hospital is now overflowing with the war injured. We face a huge humanitarian catastrophe.
The price of evil cannot be paid by the innocent. Civilians must not bear the costs of horrendous terrorist action. Violence compounds violence in a vicious cycle. No one’s blood is redder than another person’s. What hope do we have to tikkum olam תיקון עולם to mend the world?
We urgently need to see a humanitarian corridor and convoy to Gaza. That is what I am praying for, along with an end to violence on all sides, and a true seeking of a political and religious peace infused with justice.
Yesterday evening, I launched the Bishop of Norwich’s Ahli Arab Hospital appeal, not to be partisan in this war, but because it is an Anglican institution, caring for those innocently caught up in this conflict.
“Dear haverim friends
‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee’ (Psalm 122).”