As the national anthem of the United States of America is sung at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, the death toll on the border between Gaza and Israel mounts. I have been watching the ceremony and reports on the border deaths juxtaposed on two different screens. Commentators generally give away their political leanings in the first one or two sentences of their report and those watching the embassy ceremony convey their approval via thousands of “likes” and “loves” on Facebook.
As I take it all in, my heart is torn. I have walked the streets of Israel and Palestinian territories, have been invited into homes for tea, met with mayors and local dignitaries and have been hosted by the Chief Rabbi and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on the same day. After all that, I cannot take sides and am convinced that God does not take sides. As He said to Samuel:
“I look on the heart…” People are neither condemned nor redeemed on the basis of their race, nationality, gender nor any other group identity.
He knows each of us so intimately that he says the very hairs on our heads are numbered.
I can assure you, as I am sure you would expect, that there are wonderful, kind people on both sides of the border and their most fervent hope is that there would be peace for their children. There are others, on both sides of the border, who are fervent in their desire to wipe “the other” from the face of the earth. Tragically, the latter has grown faster than the former in recent years.
Is there any way forward? Well, I have a wish. It is not yet a hope and certainly not a confident faith, but it is a clear wish and that is a good place to start.
I wish that systematic fear and racial hatred would be eradicated from Israeli life, especially from the military training, which all Israelis have to undertake. Friends who have been in the military tell me that every young person is taught to hate and fear and feel superior to Palestinians. I can understand how that could seem to be expedient for military service, but it is so destructive in the long term.
I wish that Palestinians could learn that they have massive resources and that they can live for positive, achievable purposes rather than for vengeance and for retaking the land. People, especially young people, are our greatest asset and the Palestinians have lots of them! From the late 1940s until today, Singapore and South Korea represent what can happen to a nation that is poor in other natural resources, but rich in people. Both were poverty stricken at the beginning of the 1950s, but both set their sights on making the most of their people and are numbered in the top thirty most prosperous nations in the world.
The Palestinians are highly gifted people, with an unusually high percentage of very intelligent citizens. They could accomplish so much if they turned their focus from victimhood towards creating a better future for their children—EVEN IF THE POLITICAL SITUATION DOES NOT IMPROVE.
This is hard for the Palestinians because they have embraced Muslim leaders who use their religious texts for fanning the flames of hatred. The current Grand Mufti of Jerusalem has quoted a saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed:
“The Hour will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jews will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: O Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” This kind of thinking is a manifestation of a very deep evil.
In light of all this, can my wish begin to be a real hope? Can it become a confident faith? With God all things are possible! Later this week, millions of Christians will begin 30 Days of Prayer to coincide with the Muslim fast of Ramadan. (I will write more about that soon.) When we listen to God and then pray as He leads us, it changes history.
This volatile, dangerous, long-standing conflict can change! Let us listen, pray and obey and then see what God can do.