And Man, whose heav’n-erected face

The smiles of love adorn, -

Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!

What a mess!

Israel and Gaza.

Overnight it seems many among us have become self-appointed experts in the complexities of Middle East politics. Most of us look on helpless, the horrors delivered straight into our living room. Some have picked a side to support, as if it were a football match.

Last Thursday evening my civic duties took me to Giffnock Synagogue in Glasgow. Other Provosts were there along with many familiar west of Scotland politicians. At the end of the front row sat Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister and a proud Muslim, wearing like the rest of us a kippah, the skull cap of the Jew.

Over five hundred were in the hall. The atmosphere was funereal. A nervousness in the air. A tension. An anxiety. I was shown to my seat. I was placed beside Colin Cowan, an instantly likeable chap, a gentle man. His brother Bernard was the Glasgow man killed by Hamas in his Kibbutz. When the attack happened he had gone straight to the safe room in his house, his mammad, a room made of reinforced concrete with airtight steel doors and windows, designed to withstand rocket attacks. After a while he left it to see what was happening and was fatally shot through his kitchen window.

When the service started I stood to let Colin out the row that he could help his elderly mother light a memorial candle. ‘Our family have been left devastated,' he told me, 'and I see Humza Yousaf here and tonight I feel such an affinity with him. With his in-laws trapped in Gaza, we have two men here in this city touched personally by a conflict four thousand miles away. Two men on opposite sides and yet I feel closer to him than probably I do any other person in this room.’

Humza Yousaf spoke, ‘Your heartbreak, is my heartbreak, your loss is my loss, your tears are my tears. No one should be harmed for their faith or child murdered for their citizenship.’ He spoke as our First Minister. He came across as a thoroughly decent human being. He was warmly applauded by his Jewish audience and grew in many an estimation. At the close of the ceremony white haired Mrs Cowan embraced him.

The despicable crimes of Hamas should not go unpunished. They say that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter! Who fights for freedom though with the murder of young families and the decapitation of babies?

Or what kind of thinking goes into dishing out a collective punishment to a nation for the sins of a few? The denial of electricity, fuel, food and water to a people with no means of escape. The bombing of residential areas. People suffering through no fault of their own. The collateral damage of obscenity!

‘If your moral compass is attuned to the suffering of only one side, your compass is broken, and so is your humanity’, wrote the American journalist Nicholas Kristof last week.

Great wisdom and restraint is now needed to avoid further escalation. The situation looks hopeless and any sort of stability seems miles away. More will die and the blast of the bombs and the gunfire and the taste of the dust and the devastation will go on.

The only hope we have to cling to is the knowledge that every Holy Book in this world has at its core the teaching of love and that Man’s capacity to love is so much greater than his capacity to hate.

In the meantime, please keep in your thoughts and in your prayers those who are the innocents of war!

Man’s inhumanity to man indeed!