Prayers4Peace: Under the Shadow of Death

Under the Shadow of Death

By Lisa Loden

Written on October 13, 2023

In the shade of the mango tree, 

beside the rosebush, 

stands an ancient plowshare, 

a symbol of peace, 

created from forged iron. 

Perhaps it was once iron swords.  

Under the lengthening shadow of death, 

live seventeen million 

Israelis, Gazans, Palestinians 

divided by impenetrable walls, 

walls of suspicion, hatred, fear. 

Grief, and suffering stalk their streets

At the Gazan borders, by the sea

untold thousands, soldiers

stand ready to invade. 

A million ordered to evacuate 

each one a mother, father, 

brother, sister, daughter, son. 

The dream of peaceful plowshares,

scent of roses, redolence of ripe mango

obliterated by smoke, shrapnel 

and fallen ash on once holy ground.

stained now by death’s red shadow, 

and the double-sided stab of iron swords.

What do we see when we see the faces? When we look into the eyes and faces of the “other?” Do we see the Gazan mother fleeing with her children, the dead children downed by bombs or massacred in their beds, the lost youth of both peoples grown up with the legacy of war upon war, upon war, or  the pilots who rained death from the skies on defenseless people, or the soldier faced with the impossible choice to protect or kill? What do we see?

I cannot discern the difference. Israeli, Arab, Palestinian, Jew, Christian, Muslim, secular, religious, men, women. We are all one, all human, members of the vast and beautiful human family. We stand this day, divided, sundered by the forces of hatred, fear, pride, an our common need to survive.

What will be the cost of this war, will it be the hearts, the minds of our youth, the calcification of our views about the “other”— us the Jews and them the other, us the Arabs and them the other?  Will it be the end of peace, a further distancing — Jewish and Arab, Palestinians and Israelis, left and right, secular and religious, Jewish/Christian/Moslem,  after Israel has “won” another war? 

As I write these words, we are on the threshold of an irrevocable decision. Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself. In this current conflict, entitled “Iron Sword,” Israel has already rained death and destruction on thousands of innocent citizens, and wounded thousands more. Will it ever be enough to erase the multiplying trauma? There is no justice, no balance in this equation, nor has there ever been. Today, to “eradicate” the enemy at any cost, Israel has justified all further civilian deaths for those who may yet choose to remain in Gaza. For days we’ve denied them the basic necessities of food, water, and electricity. There are no machines to dig through the rubble, to rescue any who may yet be alive. And time is passing . . . how long can they live under the rubble of war? How long can we live in the rubble of war?

There is no exit, there are no shelters, all borders are closed, one million people “advised” to evacuate to nowhere. And we pride ourselves on our humanitarian stance to warn them of the imminent devastation of their world. 

This war is not with flesh and blood, but with the powers of darkness that seek to destroy. The wrath of man never works the will of God. 

In the words of journalist Nicholas Kristoff: “If we owe a moral responsibility to Israeli children, then we owe the same moral responsibility to Palestinian children. Their lives have equal weight.” And  “If you care about human life only in Israel or only in Gaza, then you don’t actually care about human life.” 1

We, the most privileged of all, 

we who know the grace, 

the mercy of the living God

called to walk in love, 

to do justice, to love mercy 

to walk humbly with our God.

What will we do this day?

Will we weep? Will we lament? 

Will we rejoice in victory?

Will we cry out for life? 

Will we choose to see 

the open wounds of our Saviour,

bleeding still for all his children? 

© October 2023 Lisa Loden

About the Author: Lisa Loden is a peace builder and faith leader within the Messianic Jewish community. Lisa immigrated to Israel in 1974, and with her husband, founded Beit Asaph Messianic congregation in Netanya. Lisa was the director of the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies in Jerusalem from 2002–2007, and served on the faculty of the Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary from 2008–2013. She serves on several peace and reconciliation-related boards, including Global Peace Heroes, the Advisory Board of the Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice, and other initiatives. She is the co–chair of the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel and Palestine, and is a member of several ecumenical theological dialogue groups. Lisa writes on reconciliation and related issues for various publications. She and Salim Munayer edited a book on the theology of the land – The Land Cries Out (Wipf and Stock, 2011) – and co–authored Through My Enemy’s Eyes (Paternoster, 2014).

Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

  1. ‘Seeking a Moral Compass in Gaza’s War.’ October 12, 2023 ↩︎

3 Comments On “Prayers4Peace: Under the Shadow of Death”

  1. Violence begets more violence and hatred spreads more. When will we learn we all have the same earth roots and are all interconnected in order to Live and Love as in Ecclesiastes 3:7,8
    The poem is searing–thanks.


  2. Yes. So many good questions to ask myself. Isn’t our loving action to look at faces and there witness the presence of the child, the mother, the soldier created by God wholly out of love? When I choose to actively love another person, not a statistic, not a political proof for war is the only answer, not the pother side as an enemy,, but a real person, I am filling myself by choice with love, creating love. Isn’t that what Christ spoke about when He talked about the leaven which causes the bread to rise? Together choosing to love each person, we choose to become leaven and open wide the opportunity to spread this love as power to heal, rebuild, unite and awaken to the joy of being here in this moment, in this war, in this time.To choose to be the face of love, to choose to see His eyes in the eyes of every person in my day, in my prayers for ending the hostilities and building peace, one human face at a time.


  3. Thank you for providing words to express the pain of so many and the hope that underlies it, hurting, hurting, hurting, but alive.


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