Quakers Fast for Peace in Gaza and Israel

Quakers for Peace in Palestine and Israel, a group of at least 17 Friends from the United States, Ireland, and Venezuela, fasted and participated in virtual worship sharing on April 8 to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, according to participant Claire Cohen. The event coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which believers fast from dawn to sunset.

Participants in the worship sharing considered several queries, including one about reaching out courageously and lovingly to people on all sides of the conflict, and another concerning their practices of daily connection with God.

The query that meant the most to participant Lauren Brownlee was “What does love require of you?”

“That is a query that lives on my heart always. It’s sort of the North Star for my life,” Brownlee said. Brownlee is the deputy general secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), but joined the action in an individual capacity and not as a representative of FCNL.

Participant Diane McHale felt most touched by the query on outreach to various sides of conflict, which reminded her to love all parties impacted by the war.

The current phase of the longstanding conflict between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinians began on October 7, 2023, when Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 hostage. The IDF responded with attacks on Gaza that have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians. The war has caused starvation and blocked the delivery of international humanitarian aid.

Brownlee fasted to bring about internal transformation, realizing that fasting in solidarity with starving Palestinians was not the equivalent of experiencing lethal hunger. Brownlee took the day to center other people’s needs and to raise her own awareness.

Abstaining from food for the day deepened McHale’s concern for Palestinians facing starvation.

“Fasting connected me to the suffering of the people in Gaza. I was nervous about whether or not I could do it because I sometimes get migraines if I don’t eat. We talked ahead of time about how I could drop out if I did. This brought home what it is like if you are in Gaza where you can’t stop fasting when you have medical problems,” McHale said.

Participant John Choe fasted for the whole month of Ramadan.

“I felt that fasting was this physical analog to silent worship where you are listening intently,” said Choe, who worships with the People of Color Worship and Reflection Group, which meets under the care of Flushing Meeting in Queens, N.Y.

Choe attended several iftars (fast-breaking meals held in the Muslim community at the time of evening prayer during Ramadan). Muslims pray five times a day. Sharing the meals enabled Choe to form relationships with his Muslim neighbors and share their concern for their co-religionists who the IDF are killing in Gaza.

Asked about the Biden administration’s pause on weapons shipments in response to Israel’s incursion into the Gazan city of Rafah, Brownlee characterized it as “an important baby step.”

Brownlee, a member of Bethesda (Md.) Meeting, sent her meeting’s pro-ceasefire minute to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and received a form letter in reply. Norton and other Congresspeople wrote to President Biden highlighting the risk of starvation among Gazans and urging a peaceful end to the war.

McHale hopes that letters to Congressmembers will hasten the war’s end. She called on the United States to stop weapons shipments to Israel and to increase humanitarian aid.

“We should be sending food, not arms. We need a ceasefire,” McHale said.

Sharlee DiMenichi

Sharlee DiMenichi is a staff writer for Friends Journal. Contact: sharlee@friendsjournal.org.

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