Tim G. Echols and Ritesh Desai: My Heart Bleeds for Israel

Ritesh Desai, Tim Echols

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

What is happening in Israel right now? Less than 9 months ago, there were four peace treaties signed with Israel, namely UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.  Things seemed to be getting back on track. The lifelong dream of achieving peace in the region was becoming a reality. Now we are left to figure out why Israel and Hamas are at war. 

During our trip to Israel a decade ago with the American Jewish Committee, we each visited the border town of Sderot, which is just minutes from the Gaza Strip—the narrow coastal enclave filled with millions of Palestinians under the control of Hamas. There, in a tiny museum of spent rockets, we saw hundreds of primitive weapons that had been fired from Gaza over into the town through the years. Each home in this border town has a bunker. The walls of the bunker are made of steel one foot in thickness. When the alarm sounds, residents have only about 15 seconds to find shelter.  Last week, two elderly Israel citizens died as they fell trying to reach a shelter. Rocket-fire is what the residents of this town live with every single day.

As a devout Christian co-authoring this piece with a devout Hindu, we both view the Holy Land with a special awe and respect.  For me as an Evangelical, Israel is the birthplace of the Messiah and the home to most of the Old Testament stories. Christians share a special affinity with Israel and forever we lobbied for the capital to be moved to Jerusalem.  American Christians have pressed their elected officials to provide military hardware to Israel to help them preserve their independence.

Hindus and Jews share many commonalities in religion, culture, and a desire for peace. Both India and Israel became independent in 1947. The road to democracy and freedom was paved with a lot of tears. However, the love for the perseverance of their identity and culture was at the core of this fight. I was born in India and remembered a fable often told me in my childhood of a man that was hungry for days that gets a dry piece of bread and is about to eat it when he sees another hungry man approaching. He immediately shares half of that bread with the other hungry man. I saw this very same spirit in the people of Israel. During my trip, I visited a small, unassuming family. The patriarch had a quarter of a bottle of an orange soda. He willingly shared it with our group.

As we watched the news of nearly 2500 rockets raining down on Israel, our hearts broke for this holy land. We fondly remembered our memories of Israel in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and smaller towns.  We both visited the Wailing Wall and prayed there joining the others at a synagogue on Friday celebrating Shabbat. Now, to watch all of this being disrupted and destroyed is hard to see.

What is not being reported is that Israel does not seek violence. They have always sought peace.  With only a population of seven million people, they are like David and Goliath as they are surrounded by 150 million hostile neighbors. Hamas, regardless of their rhetoric, provoked Israel and are putting civilians in Gaza at risk. We both stand with Israel and pray for peace soon.

Tim Echols is Vice-Chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Ritesh Desai is The founder of vanitywala.com