A Prayer in the Motherhouse
in the name of life, ceasefire; in the name of life, peace
What happened in Israel last weekend was a horrific and tragic massacre.
What is happening right now in Gaza is a genocidal, catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Shame on my country for vetoing the UN’s resolution yesterday to condemn violence against all civilians, by both Hamas and by the Israeli military, and to call for ceasefire in order to bring in aid. Shame, shame shame on my country. I am shocked to see how little in truth we have changed since the days of Manifest Destiny.
This is tragedy begetting tragedy, violence begetting violence, in the kind of cycle that never ends, and provides neither safety no true freedom for anyone.
These last days I feel a tide of keening everywhere, like it’s coming from the entire Earth, through time and space. Like every place of genocide and massacre is wailing. It has been hard to sleep. From the Lost Coast in Klamath County where Sinkyone native people were buried alive up to their necks in the sand and drowned in the oncoming tide by white settlers who were very possibly my ancestors, to the countless massacres by European settlers during the gold rush in California of native tribes up and down the state, to the better known Trail of Tears and Long Walk of the Navajo and other such genocides perpetrated against indigenous people by the United States government, from the unthinkable, blinding horror of the Holocaust, to occupations and genocides across the world since then, to this very moment.
There is no humane response to the situation in Gaza right now except to call for a ceasefire so that immediate humanitarian relief can reach people on the ground. This does not mean that what was done to Israeli civilians by Hamas isn’t abhorrent. It is, unequivocally, and should be denounced and decried and brought to justice as such. But this all-out, almost totally indiscriminate siege on the open-air prison (half of whose residents are under the age of 15) that is Gaza is equally unconscionable and in my opinion dishonors the Jewish lives lost on October 7th, and in the Holocaust too. I believe in Israel’s right to defend itself, of course I do, and I am terrified daily for the hostages held by Hamas, but I can’t see how this bloody bombardment of more bombs than were dropped by the US in a year during the war in Afghanistan being dropped in a week in Gaza (which is about as big as East London) is keeping anyone safe. It’s creating a bottomless pit of anguish and even more radicalization.
Mothers and children are dying in Gaza the name of mothers and children who have died in Israel. This is absolute insanity to me. There has to be a better tactic than this, and I believe it is in no way anti-Semitic to call for ceasefire and for mercy upon civilians in Gaza. May one ancestral genocide not be used as unconscious fuel to enact another. It has happened too many times across this earth.
My middle name, Victor, whose “V” I use in my name as an author, is my mother’s maiden name and comes from the Jewish Wigdorowitz, from my maternal grandfather Andrew Victor (born in 1934). His parents were born in New York City in 1907, but their families came from Russia, Lithuania, and Poland (as far as I know, grandpa correct me if I’m wrong or there is more to add!); they changed their name to Victor in my great-grandfather Joseph’s generation so that he could get into medical school (with an obviously Jewish name at that time, he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to). While my Jewish lineage (one third of my mixed bloodline, I have Jewish ancestors on my father’s side as well, from Hungary/Romania) all came to the US before the Holocaust, they obviously knew discrimination, massacre and expulsion before that, for thousands of years. On the other hand my motherline are English Puritans, subject to violence and religious persecution in Britain, who upon arriving in so-called New England in the 1600’s also enacted violence on the native people there. And my Irish Catholic ancestors, who faced persecution in their country, mixed in after a generation or so in US with more English, German, and Welsh immigrants and were certainly complicit in violence against native California indigenous people in post-gold rush, timber days. All of this sits heavy in me. I’ve spent much of my adult life examining, learning, listening, and trying to reconcile this web.
And yet, and yet, I feel all of them in me now; their longings and their fears and their betrayals and violences, beyond death, gathered up by the angels of God, of the Most Holy, of the Good, of the Divine Creator, of Absolute Unending Love, of Earth, of the Mother, as two sides of one wound, and this wound dissolves into a single voice that intones not again, not again, not again.
May the blood feuds of ten thousand years end, before we have no earth or peace left at all.
As my friend the writer Siobhán Rodgers recently wrote in a powerfully important essay called “Some Mother’s Son” about both the recent history of her motherline in the north of Ireland, and the current occupation of Gaza, everybody is somebody’s child.
It has helped me today to read this article from “Jewish Currents.” In it there’s a poem by Puerto-Rican Jewish poet Aurora Levins Morales which I am holding close:
---- Red Sea by Aurora Levins Morales We cannot cross until we carry each other, all of us refugees, all of us prophets. No more taking turns on history’s wheel, trying to collect old debts no-one can pay. The sea will not open that way. This time that country is what we promise each other, our rage pressed cheek to cheek until tears flood the space between, until there are no enemies left, because this time no one will be left to drown and all of us must be chosen. This time it’s all of us or none. --------
To sit down and cry seeing footage of the hospital that was bombed two nights ago in Gaza, footage of real human beings (please do not forget this), real human bodies, children and mothers and fathers and babies, having lost their lives; to keep watching Palestinian on-the-ground footage and accounts. To not look away.
To sit down and cry listening to an Israeli woman named Michal Halev, mother of a twenty-year old boy named Laor Avramov who was killed by Hamas in the attacks on October 7th. With absolute dignity and humanity and emotion she looks at the camera and she decries further violence. These are her words:
“I am begging all the world, stop all the wars, stop killing people, stop killing babies. War is not the answer. War is not how you fix things. This country, Israel, is going through horror, and I know my other country, America, is going through horror. And I know the mothers of Gaza are going through horror, and I know that people in Ukraine and all the world are going through their own horrors. Do anything you can. The whole world unite to heal those children that they won’t grow up to be haters, that they grow up to be lovers, gentle lovers like my gentle giant. And that they will have a life, that they will grow up and follow their dreams, and marry the girl they loved. I have been broken now for a few days and I will remain broken for the rest of my life. But I managed to catch one breath and I wanted to use it to talk to the world, because I hear voices of people wanting vengeance and of people wanting to go kill the monsters.
And I want to say that, in my name, I want no vengeance.”
I have tried to keep looking, and when I have to look away because it’s too much, I am keeping a candle lit constantly in my heart and also on an altar I have made in my bedroom for all innocent people trapped in Gaza, for hostages still held by Hamas, for families in grief on both sides of this conflict, for even the ones who are deploying the missiles, that peace and grief might stop their hands, thou shalt not kill; love thy neighbor as thyself; make me an instrument of your peace. I see Yeshua son of Miriam son of God washing the feet of all. Every last one. Every single last one. That’s hard to sit with but there is no real peace on earth without that level of love. We have still hardly begun to truly hear or be able to handle the message that man came here with two thousand years ago. It’s a staggering one. It’s absolutely shattering. I see Mary holding his body, taken down from the cross. I see Mary holding the body of Michal’s son in Israel. I see Mary holding the body of a boy killed in the streets of Gaza. I close my eyes and imagine Yeshua and his mother among the streets of Israel and the streets of Gaza, and that they are bringing miracles of peace, of protection, of healing, of MERCY and safety for the innocent.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was left unaided.
Mary mother of Yeshua, beloved among Muslims, Christians and Jews alike; Yeshua, unending unsayable fundament of absolute love, beloved among Muslims, Christians and Jews alike, protect the families of Gaza from indiscriminate bombing, from starvation and dehydration. Hold against you the ones who have survived but have lost those they love, whose very homeland is dying, bombed by 6000 bombs in 6 days. Hold the families who have lost loved ones in Israel, who have witnessed unspeakable violence and horror, who have survived sexual abuse, who have lost tiny children, who are experiencing enormous ancestral trauma and PTSD not only from the Holocaust but from centuries of expulsions. Hold all in your peace.
And may God, who to me is Absolute Love and Mercy, Mother beyond gender, Christ at the beginning of the cosmos, help us all to keep our hearts’ eyes open and our prayers this wide.
I sat down and recorded a prayer-meditation yesterday, with my candles lit for ceasefire and peace and the halting of genocide, in the hopes that, if you need something like this today, it might help you too to come into a state of rootedness so as to send prayers outward, in love, to all affected by this conflict.
These words came in a flood, unplanned, so forgive me if they wander— of the living water of love, of networks of trees and of deer songs and of ancestral Motherhouses.
Finally, here is A TOOLKIT of resources for supporting the end of genocide and violent occupation in Gaza from the USCPR.