I will admit, I have avoided talking about this subject, mainly because it is so controversial, but also because I wasn’t sure how to approach the conflict myself. Yesterday, I had an experience that cast light on the conflict for me in an unexpected way. A group of JUC students went into the Hinnom valley to play Ultimate Frisbee, which is our traditional Friday afternoon activity this semester. However, this particular Friday was different; we were joined by some Arab boys playing soccer. At first, they kept to the side, but gradually they overtook the center of the field. Soon enough, we attempted to communicate with them. Obviously, the situation wasn’t working for either parties. Neither of us could play freely because we both wanted the entire field.
I know these details may seem insignificant. It was just a game of Ultimate Frisbee, right?
Wrong. What made this encounter significant for me was that it immediately reminded me of the Palestinian /Israeli conflict. Only, it was an entire country and not just a field and the consequences are far greater than just an interrupted game of soccer or Frisbee.
When these boys invaded our space and started pushing their presence over ”our” field, I was irritated. I realized just how frustrating the entire situation is for both sides. Fighting over something they both feel to be “theirs” and negotiating borders, the escalation of anger and the miscommunication between both parties. I can testify to the fact that there at least seemed to be no solution to the problem. Some reacted by simply leaving and completely avoiding the conflict. Others attempted to sit down and make friendships with them. Still others attempted to just keep playing Frisbee and ignore them.
These reactions were all remarkably similar to the reactions of many people involved in the conflict here. Many try to simply avoid the problem and pretend the other side doesn’t exist. Some become frustrated and engage. Others attempt communication and negotiation. But even after all these efforts, not much has changed and neither party is happy.
This conflict is something I have been forced to engage and think about while living in the land. It is impossible not to think about after living here. I cross the border into Bethlehem every day and see the security. I attended the Christ at the Checkpoint in Bethlehem, and heard many different opinions on the situation. I have talked to Muslim shopkeepers as well as Israeli citizens, and the situation is clearly anything but simple.
Just yesterday, I witnessed a protest in Jerusalem outside Damascus gate where Palestinians were attempting “demonstrations” for the media for the goal of making the Israeli army retaliate. News and media reporters and cameras were everywhere, capturing the violence. The agenda was to declare the unity and freedom of Palestine and to make the Israeli army look bad in the media. Army horses were controlling the mobs, concussion grenades were going off, and Arab women were yelling and protesting.
While no one died, there was definitely some harm on both the Palestinian and Israeli parties. It was basically an excuse for everyone to be mad at each other, and it really accomplished nothing but to reinforce the stubbornness of everyone involved. And I left feeling how unnecessary and pointless the march. Immediately after this, I went to our grassy ultimate field and did the same exact thing I had just witnessed in miniature. I wasn’t throwing grenades or waving flags for our cause, but I definitely experienced feelings of entitlement and irritation towards the boys. Funny, right? I thought so too.This seems to be an issue of human nature in our sense of entitlement and pride.
Last week, I went with a group of students to meet with a Messianic Jew named Calev Meyers, working as a lawyer in a program named Jerusalem Institute of Justice in the new City. (this is his website: http://www.jij.org.il/
What he had to say cast the most light on the situation. He referenced Jesus’ ministry and how he worked to restore human dignity. Christ valued human life above all else. He valued it so highly that he died for it. His goal was to bring restoration to life, identity, and humanity and he achieved it. He called us to follow him in bringing this kingdom and that is exactly what we should do. We should be proponents for justice and work for against extremism on both sides. However, true justice and peace can only be achieved in Christ, so we must bring Christ and His message in accompaniment with social and political restoration. Social restoration cannot be brought without Christ. And Christ cannot exist without Social restoration, they are interconnected.
We must pray for the unity of Israel and Jewish Christians and address the extremism and injustice within their own people groups. Palestinian Christians should work for restoration within their society and Israelis should work for restoration within their society and this will practically bring some form of peace and restoration for the conflict today. This is what we can do now and leave the rest to the Lord, trusting that it will happen and believing his final restorative plan for this land. Kalev left our meeting saying something that hit me strongly: “I think there is hope, I really do.”
This concept of hope is the key. If we don’t believe a solution to be possible, we will not really try. But Christ gave us hope. He is hope. If we cling to this, there will be progress and his Kingdom will follow, whether at a grassy field in the Hinnom valley or at the Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.