Jerusalem Patriarch Fouad Twal has offered some words of peace and reconciliation in the wake of Israel's redoubled offensive in Gaza.
Speaking with the Catholic News Service in Washington, Twal said that though he condemned Hamas' actions, Israel should amend its strategy in Gaza and consider the longterm repercussions of the continued unrest.
"We cannot punish all the population because you do not agree with Hamas," Twal said. "We have hundreds and hundreds of killed people, innocent people, 80 percent innocent."
Twal intimated that the scale of the attacks on both sides was not comparable, arguing that many Israelis have access to better safety measures than their Palestinian counterparts.
"Remember [Hamas'] rockets: They make noise, they make fear, they never killed one person... In Gaza, when [Israelis] strike, there is no shelter. The Israeli people are happy to have bomb shelters, and they can go escape when they want. Meanwhile, in Gaza, we have nothing. No shelters, and they are in the street."
Twal's patriarchate, which CNS notes is similar to an archdiocese, includes Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus. He urged leaders to find a solution that involved dialogue, saying that it is "better to find another way to look for peace" than through military action.
"It is better to be good neighbors forever than to be enemies forever," Twal told CNS. "Peace is for all."
Twal also offered words of advice for those concerned about the situation in Gaza. He recommended "the three P's," which stand for prayer, pilgrimage and projects. Chief among these, he said, was prayer. "We ask you to pray for us, to pray for this peace."
With his message of peace Twal added his voice to a faint but growing contingent of faith leaders reaching across religious lines to call for dialogue and reconciliation. Jerusalem papal representative Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto said the deaths in Gaza were "not acceptable" and that “stakeholders must be helped and should be brought to the negotiating table.”
On Tuesday July 15 interfaith leaders used the hashtag #HungryForPeace to launch a daylong fast for peace in the Middle East, which coincided with the Jewish fast day, the 17th of Tammuz, and the onset of three week's mourning for the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples.
Several members of the U.K.-based National Council of Imams and Rabbis also released a statement urging leaders from all sides to cooperate in finding a peaceful solution.
“In these difficult and dangerous times we call on courageous and wise leadership to strive for a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table to work towards a sustained peace and two-state solution...As members of the National Council of Imams and Rabbis we seek to replace fear and prejudice with knowledge and understanding and in this way work together for a more peaceful world.”