We had mass in Jericho, known as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, en route to see the Mount of Temptation (where Jesus was tested by the devil); see the Sycamore Tree where tax-collector Zacchaeus was said to have climbed; and later to Jordan Jordan River where Saint John the Baptist was said to have baptized our Lord Jesus Christ.
The spiritual journey in these holy places was enriching, more so the Renewal of Baptism in River Jordan, but what haunts me even now are the haunting eyes of the kindergarten children who waved and smiled at us while we were having mass at the Jericho Good Shepherd Parish, which stands just across an impressive towering mosque.
My wife Ann could not help but to go and shake the hands of the Palestine children as she misses our little boy Arno during our two week trip in Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in UAE end of October; and before Palestine and Jordan started raining bombs and rockets on each other’s territories.
I remember the innocent children as I read a Reuters report that an Israeli rocket targeting a Palestinian diplomat killed civilians instead. Here’s part of the news:
Israeli air strike kills 11 civilians in Gaza: Hamas
(Reuters) - An Israeli missile killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians including four children in Gaza on Sunday, medical officials said, apparently an attack on a top militant that brought a three-storey home crashing down.
Gaza health officials said 72 Palestinians , 21 of them children and several women have been killed in Gaza since Israel's offensive began. Hundreds have been wounded.
Israel gave off signs of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run enclave as the next stage in its offensive, billed as a bid to stop Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state. It also spelt out its conditions for a truce.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that while Israel had a right to defend itself against the salvoes, it would be "preferable" to avoid a military thrust into the Gaza Strip, a narrow, densely populated coastal territory. Such an assault would risk high casualties and an international outcry.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said 11 people, all of them civilians, were killed when an Israeli missile flattened the home of the Dalu family. Medics said four women and four children were among the dead.
Israel's chief military spokesman said Yihia Abayah, a senior commander of rocket operations in the Gaza Strip, had been the target.
The spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, told Israel's Channel 2 television he did not know whether Abayah was killed, "but the outcome was that there were civilian casualties". He made no direct mention of the destroyed dwelling.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in the military showdown with Hamas.
"The massacre of the Dalu family will not pass without punishment," Hamas's armed wing said in a statement.
We join the world community – including those in the Internet Community – in calling for a stop to the bombings from both Israel and Palestine. We call on Israel not to pursue the ground offensive, to stop using their superior power to harm civilians; and for the Hamas to also stop provocative actions that only harm innocent people of this poor country already suffering much from an Israeli economic embargo for years now.
Why can’t we all look in the eyes of the children and stop playing soldiers, political games and religious extremism? Why can’t we all have that child-like innocence this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus?
Let us all pray for peace on earth.