While listening to the radio, I recently caught a story on NPR that made me weep, an all-too-common occurrence in these days of troubling news. But this story stayed with me because of the heroism involved and the powerful message.
Earlier this summer, a Jewish family of settlers was driving near the West Bank city of Hebron when they were ambushed by a Palestinian militant. The father was shot dead. The mother was hanging upside down in the family’s overturned van with a seat belt wrapped around her neck. In the back, a teenage brother and sister were wounded and screaming.
First to help – at great personal risk – was a 28-year-old Palestinian and his wife, a nursing student. While the man rescued and cared for the children, a Palestinian doctor stopped to free their mother. Both rescuers feared being mistaken by Israeli police as the perpetrators of the attack, but both helped anyway.
When other Palestinians arrived, however, one threatened to harm the children. The younger man warned them not to come any closer. Shielding the two with his own body, he yelled, “They are under my protection.”
As a result, the man, who asked to remain anonymous, lost his job and has been called a spy and a traitor, the interviewer said. Not long before, he had been in a motorcycle accident and was so injured that his heart stopped. Standing beside his hospital bed, his mother implored him, “Live in order to help others.”
And he did.
This story is not about who has the right to occupy the West Bank. It is about how we – all of us – are called to help those God puts in our path, regardless of our similarities or differences. As said Dr. Ali Shroukh, the other rescuer in this story, “Here, in the children, there are no politics.”
I am reminded of this when seeing photos of the battered bodies of children pulled from the wreckage of Aleppo. And of reading of Haitian mothers holding their terrified children through the winds and rains of hurricane Matthew.
In the words of that brave rescuer, “They are under my protection,” I hear an ancient promise. “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you,” (II Thessalonians 3:3). What a comfort to know that God is my protector. As his child, he throws his arms around me and says to the enemy, “Don’t come any closer. She is my child. She is under my protection.”
This same God who rescued me – at great personal cost – calls me to rescue others.
When I come upon the wounded and needy, am I faithful, as Isaiah exhorts, to, “encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble” (35:3)? Today, this very moment, millions of people need protection from warfare, hunger, disease, and poverty. Do we live to help others? Or have our hearts already stopped beating?
Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of Mid-coast Maine. Her memoir, “Redeeming Ruth,” releases in May 2017.