Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whose side are you on?

My friend in Jerusalem recently sent me a link to a site in Israel that is basically an open forum for people to write their thoughts. This particular stream of letters consisted of hundreds of passionate commentary on the events unfolding in Gaza. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants to be right. However, the more you know of the story the more it seems that no one is right in this situation. Gaza is controlled by terrorists and therefore Israel has closed its borders to ensure that terrorists or their weapons do not get in or out of the city. Israelis defend their right to retaliate against the rockets sent into their towns from the terrorist group, Hamas and they believe this is the only way to finally take care of the situation. Palestinians believe that they do not have power and do not have freedom to come and go as they please. They believe that Israel has made it impossible for them to establish their own state and government and they believe they are oppressed and harassed by the government. Israel has promised land to the Palestinians and yet continues to build settlements in the West Bank and therefore uproot the indigenous Palestinian people and create refugees of them. Certain Palestinians have taken to terrorist acts to retaliate against harsh treatment and oppression, "wounding" the government and the Jewish State by killing, injuring and frightening innocent people. Our friend says that "terror is the weapon of the weak." However, many Palestinians see what is happening in Gaza as terror- except that there is power and government behind it. Other than that, there are hundreds of innocent people being wounded and killed in the name of self preservation and defense. I believe that there is a political solution to the problems in Israel but it would take a large amount of compromise from both sides. I wish I could choose a side and say that one is justified in its actions or that one is more peace loving but I cannot. Last year I carried a heavy burden on my shoulders while living in the Middle East. It was not the burden of the language barrier, the large presence of weapons, the cruel treatment from others or even the possibility of being victim to a terrorist attack. The burden I bore was the tension, the hatred, the eye-for-eye, tooth for tooth mentality that people hold in that part of the world.

The commentaries I read through last night were all written by Christians. People who share a faith in Jesus Christ and believe that his death and his love and forgiveness has saved them and given them new life. Some of those believers we call "messianic Jews." They are Jewish by culture and while their brothers in the Jewish faith are still awaiting the messiah, they believe He has come in the person of Jesus. The other believers who have written are Palestinian believers of Jesus. Many of the Christians in Israel are in fact, Arab. And because Christianity actually outdates the Muslim faith, many of those families have believed for centuries. Neither the Messianic Jews or the Palestinian Christians are warmly welcomed in Israel. Many of the messianic believers that we met were very quiet about their faith, afraid to be shunned and even hated by their fellow Jews. Much of what I read was positive - human beings trying hard to reconcile what they believe about forgiveness and about protecting the innocent, with their cultural identity and upbringing. However, both "sides" are quick to send bitter accusations at the other with little desire to take personal responsibility for the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ultimately, innocent people are being victimized on both sides and an ideology of hate is being propagated on both sides. Thinking about this, and praying for this situation brought to mind a verse in the biblical book of Joshua before the fall of Jericho. A man with a sword appears to Joshua and Joshua asks "are you for us or for our enemies?" And the man replies "Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." It made me wonder what God must being thinking of all this. It seems to me that he must be so grieved by the pain and suffering happening and by the hatred that is stirred up. He must long to bring the hearts of His children into repentance and healing.

But of course I can't ever fully know the heart of God...As a follower of God here in the states I can only pray for my brothers and sisters around the world - on all sides. And personally I cling to the verse (although maybe out of context) in Micah that asks "What does the Lord require of thee? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

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