Israel at 65: Caught in a Homeland Trap

“People caught in a homeland-trap,” writes the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai in “National Thoughts,” a poem from the mid-1960s.

The homeland (Israel) is a trap? In the eyes of hundreds of thousands of refugees who, to escape persecution, fled there from Russia, Poland, Germany, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and…? In the eyes of the many American Jews who made aliyah (rose up! immigrated to) first to the British Mandate of Palestine, later to the modern State of Israel?

I’m watching The Gatekeepers. An Academy award nominee for best feature-length documentary, The Gatekeepers features interviews of six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, the secret service charged with overseeing Israel’s war on terror—Palestinian and Jewish terror. [Read more...]

In Memoriam: Joshua Casteel

I’m guessing that most of you haven’t heard of Joshua Casteel—but you should have. Casteel passed away in August after a short battle with a very aggressive form of lung cancer. He was only thirty-two.

An Iraq war veteran, Casteel served as an interrogator at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison shortly after the abuse scandal rocked the US military. He worked to ferret out intelligence that would help US forces capture and kill al Qaeda kingpins and foil the plots of jihadists.

I met Joshua in South Bend, Indiana at a conference sponsored by the Catholic Peace Fellowship, an organization started by Jim Forest and Tom Cornell, both of whom worked closely with Dorothy Day in her ministry of hospitality to the homeless.

I remember sitting down at one of the long tables during the lunch break just as Joshua was being introduced. He had a bit of a hipster vibe about him—flannel shirt, beard and black glasses—but there was no irony or cynicism in his posture or his voice as he recited the Magnificat: [Read more...]

On the Marine Corps Birthday: Why Not Turn the Other Cheek?

Most years when the Marine Corps birthday comes around, followed immediately by Veterans Day, I reflect on my service. This year I’m not thinking about my time in the Corps, but musing on why I joined in the first place.

Anyone who knows me will readily tell you I’m not temperamentally cut out for military life.

I’m also thinking about my boys. My oldest son Evan is sixteen, just two years from the age I was when I enlisted. His brother Asher is fourteen. Neither one of them is military material any more than I was. Neither of them has ever even been in a fight.

A couple Sundays ago, I saw a photo in the newspaper of a Syrian man holding his murdered son. The man is squatting on the dusty ground with the boy stretched across his legs. The boy’s arm hangs between his father’s knees like that of a sleeping child. The kid has on blue jeans, dusty from the knees down, and his bare feet are too large for his body, outsized puppy paws. [Read more...]


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