Forty Days carries great significance. The Christian Gospels tell of Jesus fasting for forty days in the desert. Matthew and Luke tell of Satan’s temptation of Jesus. The penitent Jesus is dared to turn stones into bread, to worship Satan and gain worldly power, and to kill himself and end his pain. Yet, Jesus persisted. From this story, we learn steadfast dedication, abstention from luxury, mortification of the body for the soul. From the most famous Palestinian rebel, we learn that only through #sumoud (Steadfast Commitment and Faith) do we reach our goals.
This year, as Christians all over the world ended their “40 Days in the Desert” on Easter Sunday, Palestinian Political Prisoners began their #DignityStrike. On April 17, 2017, some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners committed to a hunger strike demanding better treatment while incarcerated. Their primary demands include increased contact with family members, access to medical treatment, reinstatement of high school testing, and an end to solitary confinement. Their demands are to be treated with human dignity by the Israeli Occupation.
Despite clear attempts to disrupt their strike, the majority of the prisoners remain steadfast. However, after 40 Days in the Desert, their health is fading fast. Their captors tempt them with food, encourage them to just die, but they remain committed. Many have been moved to the hospital. Some are vomiting blood. All cling to their humanity.
Forty Days without food.
Forty Days without family.
Forty Days of nothing but a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water.
Exactly 40 Days in this Desert, their fast bridging two holy months, two holy fasts. Their starvation symbolically embraced by the faiths of Palestinians: Christianity and Islam.
Tomorrow begins the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month of daily abstention and mortification of the body for the soul. Typically, this fast, is broken each of the thirty nights with a date, jubilation, grand feasts, and lovingly prepared meals with family and friends. The thirty days lead to a Eid al-Fitr, three days of celebration. It’s a celebration of faith and life.
My hope is that Forty Days in the Desert is enough, and these men and women can gain the medical attention they need. I hope Israel meets their needs, and they live to see the end of Ramadan, to celebrate their faith and life in a month.
In the meantime, I wish you all a Blessed Ramadan.
Don’t forget a prayer for those left out in the desert.