Sumoud is an Arabic word meaning “steadfastness”. The occupied Palestinian people who live in Jerusalem this Holy Week, 2010, face check points, home demolitions, and the depressing news that the Congress of the United States sings the praises of a visiting Israeli prime minister who tells the world that ALL of Jerusalem belongs to Israel for the ages.
Translation: Get ready, folks, for a permanent occupation until you Palestinians agree to live as prisoners in cantons, or even better, move away to Jordan, Lebanon, or Kansas.
How do the Palestinians respond to such a threat? They respond with sumoud.
Sumoud is being heard these days in the Occupied Territories more than Nakba, the Arabic name for “catastrophe”, which Palestinians use to describe the 1948-49 colonization of their land by the newly created state of modern Israel.
And so it is that in Holy Week, 2010, while many American Christian families finally make their way to church after staying away since Christmas, in this week when we look back at the first Holy Week, we dare not let the week go by without giving thanks for the sumoud of the Palestinian people.
It is their sumoud that could save them, as it could save us. It is not only the Israeli people who must be saved from the blind arrogance of its leaders. US tax dollars support Israel’s practice of home demolitions, check points and permanent occupation. We too, must be saved, from our leaders’ blind arrogance.
US politicians may never have heard the word sumoud, but one day, friends, they will regret their ignorance.
One day they will face the horrors of historical judgment, a judgment which will condemn them as surely as they condemned those who came before them in the Halls of Congress who put their love for political power above the moral imperative to set free the enslaved.
One branch of my family lived in southern Alabama during the American Civil War. Several of them were clergy. I have been unable to find any sermon from any of them that cried out against the evils of slavery.
I do have a hand-written letter written after the war, bitterly attacking Northern occupation. But that was a selfish expression, not a testimony for justice.
Some of my ancestors owned slaves, words I write with considerable familial guilt and regret, but the records are clear on this point. Slaves, designated by first names, were included in wills.
Some were public officials, as well as clergy. One of them handled the welfare checks for widows and orphans of the soldiers who died fighting for a Lost Cause. A public service, to be sure. But he did not speak nor act, so far as I know, against the evils of slavery.
The problem for public officials is that their actions are known to the public. So it is to them that we must point when we seek out the sinners of our day. They, by their public standing, represent us all in our malfeasance.
Years from now, some families will recall that their grandparents served in the US Congress and they will point with pride at that accomplishment. But the horrors of history will still judge them and find them wanting.
We who helped elect members to Congress with votes, money, volunteer work, or silence, will escape their public historical scrutiny. But we will not escape the taint of having failed to say no when we knew that together we endorsed and supported evil.
John Wesley was the 18th century founder of the denomination to which I belong, the United Methodist Church. He did not do enough to confront the evil of slavery in his day. No one ever does enough, but there is a sentence in one of his biographies in which we Methodists can take, not pride, but at least, solace,
John Wesley was among the first to preach for slaves rights, attracting significant opposition.
Which brings us back to Holy Week, 2010, when we celebrate the week in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a humble animal.
Crowds cheered and waved palms. Jesus knew the shallowness of their praise because he knew what lay ahead. When he was nailed to a cross and left to die a long and painful death, there were few left that stood by and mourned his death on that mount of execution.
Perhaps a few stragglers hung around to stare at three dead bodies, but Roman soldiers on duty that day must surely have cleared the area with the command still in use, “Move along folks, there is nothing left here for you to see”
The soldiers would be wrong. This man who had just died unjustly did so because he followed a God who would not tolerate oppression and injustice. Did Jesus know the implication of his death? No one knows.
What we do know is that he set his face “steadfastly”–sumoud–toward the city of his death because he had no other choice but to follow God’s direction.
You do not have to be a Christian to know that this was a sacrifice, not to appease or pay for something, but a sacrifice that had to be made because to follow any other path would have been a betrayal of the God who loved him.
Holy Week, 2010, arrives at a time in the history of the city of Jerusalem, which demands an accounting.
The video, below, traces the steps that have taken Jerusalem from the city it was in 1967, as this New York Times map demonstrates. The facts are well documented. They cry out to us today with a simple command:
The horrors of history will judge you on how you respond to this slow, but steady, takeover of the city of Jerusalem.
You may click on the five and one half minute video, to see this horror. Or you may turn away and follow the soldiers’ command, “Move on, folks, there is nothing left here for you to see.” The choice is yours.
This presentation was adapted from data from the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, and the Foundation for Middle East Peace. To enlarge the video to full screen,click on the second button from the right at the bottom of the screen