As of ten minutes ago, the death toll from the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas has passed 1,800, with over 1,000 killed and 2,700 injured in Israel and at least 830 people killed and 4,250 wounded in Gaza, according to Palestinian and Israeli health services. Worldwide, people witnessed one inhumanity after another. Festival celebrants were gunned down while escaping. Hostages taken. Terrorists removed one family’s daughter and executed her. An unconscious woman at the festival was displayed by armed militants in Gaza as onlookers shouted “Allahu Akbar.” 

Allahu Akbar (God is most great)? Really? If God is so great, where the fuck is He now? Would a god so excellent begat violence upon violence and hatred upon hatred? If God was so great, what was the tactical outcome? Or, as I would ask any terrorist before undertaking any mission (which I never have), “Then what?”

In these situations, no one thinks about the, ‘Then what?’ My question about ‘Then what’ asks the idiot what happens after the attack, to which few have an answer. In World War II, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, reportedly wrote in his diary, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Those aren’t just Israeli leaders or commanders they’ll be destroying. The attack will kill hundreds of innocent people. And dude (or dudette), Israel is going to respond. They will do something. I promise you that. And I believe your God will not be around when it’s time to pay the debt. 

Festival-goer Maya Alper stood toward the back of the bar, picking up trash and passing out free vodka shots to party-goers. After 6. A.M., air raid sirens cut through the music. Rockets streaked overhead. As the carnage unfolded, Alper pulled several revelers into her car and accelerated in the opposite direction. One passenger claims to have witnessed Hamas gunmen shoot and kill her best friend. 

Deciding to abandon the car, Alper felt a bullet whiz past her as she dove into a tangle of shrubs. Peering through, Alper saw the girl who had lost her friend collapse as a gunman stood over her limp body. “Every time I thought of anger, fear, or revenge, I breathed it out,” she said. “I tried to think of what I was grateful for — the bush that hid me so well that even birds landed on it, the birds that were still singing, the sky that was so blue.”

Personally, the shocking video showing a German-Israeli woman named Shani Louk being paraded in the back of a truck by Hamas terrorists haunts me. It’s not that I could do anything from my Chicago apartment. It’s the fact that no one gave a shit, apparently not even God. The violence in World Wars, Ukraine, Israel, and religious texts (particularly the Old Testament) is a stumbling block to modern sensibility. Sadly, the ignorant overuse of ‘Allahu Akbar’ statements leads many to write off the moral authority of Scriptures or the broader notion of Faith altogether.

Yet, history shows us that God often shines the most radiant light in the most crushing darkness. I can think of the dark cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz, sacrificing himself to save the life of his fellow prisoner. Still, exclamations of Allahu Akbar remain empty. Vengence is a lousy solution.

“‘Vengeance is a bucket with a hole,” said a Master to his students. “It fills temporarily, but it carries nothing but the promise of emptiness.”

Master, how should we repay injury?” A student asked.

Repay injury with justice and forgiveness, but kindness always with kindness.’”

Maybe Maya Alper has a good way forward. “This is not just war. This is hell,” Alper said. “But in that hell, I still feel that somehow, we can choose to act out of love and not just fear.Each of us can choose to act out of love or fear.

Unfortunately, few think about Alper’s suggestions and few have an answer to the question, ‘Then what?’