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Jan
08

Prospects for Peace in the Holy Land?

Once again the United States government is trying to use its’ influence through promises of financial and military aid to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This time it is Secretary of State John Kerry who is attempting to serve as the mediator between the two hostile factions, neither of which are convinced that they are being offered an acceptable deal.

It is easy to be an expert on the issues confronting the Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians in the Holy Land . . . until you meet them and hear their stories. The Jews suffered in Europe during the holocaust. The Arabs suffered the loss of homes and property when Israel became a State. Palestinians, both Christian and Moslem, continue to suffer due to oppressive and sometimes excessive measures taken by the Israelis in defense of Jewish civilians and settlers.

Abstract oil painting of Israel. Camels in lower left, city in top middle, and water on middle right.

The Golden City/Upper Galilee. Landscape. Camels LR. Yellow buildings top center, surrounded by green. – Painting by Ruth Bamberger, 1969.  Center for Jewish History.

I asked Rida Abdeen, a Moslem shop keeper in the Old City of Jerusalem, for his solution to the problem. He identified three issues that must be resolved before the Arabs will make peace with Israel. First, Israel must stop building homes and settlements in Palestinian (West Bank) territories and give back the lands that have been taken. Second, Israel must grant Palestinians authority over the Old City of Jerusalem. Third, Israel must allow the refugees from the War of Independence and Six Day War the right to return to their lands or be compensated for their losses.

What solution do the Jews suggest? Should Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians? Jonathan Kaplan’s answer is a resounding, “No! They fought us and lost the war.”  While some Israeli Jews are willing to give up “land for peace,” Jewish settlers are demanding all of “Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank) as the land promised by God to His people. And the Israelis are united in their unwillingness to consider giving up the Old City of Jerusalem.

I asked a Palestinian Christian the same question, “What is the solution to the problem,” and he replied, “The Second Coming of Jesus.” I have to agree with him. The coming of the Lord is the ultimate solution to this conflict. For when Jesus comes, he will inaugurate a kingdom which will protect the rights and interests of everyone.

I believe that God promised the Holy Land to the people of Israel (Gen. 12:1. 13:15. 15:18). But they will receive that Land when they become a repentant, believing people (Ezek. 36:24-28, Jer. 31:31-40).  That hasn’t happened yet. And when God grants the Promised Land to Israel, He will do it with justice and fairness for all peoples, including the resident aliens who live among the people of Israel (Ezek. 47:22).

How should we as Christians relate to the Israelis and Arabs (both Moslem and Christian) who are engaged in this conflict?

First, recognize that there are two sides to every conflict. Be open to seeing the perspectives of each side of this issue.

Second, recognize that both the Arabs and the Jews have historic family roots in the land. Many Arabs and Jews can trace their family roots back hundreds of years.

Third, recognize that both the Arabs (both Christian and Moslem) and the Jews have suffered considerably through this conflict. Many have lost family members. This is an emotional and personal issue, not just political or religious.

Fourth, remember that while God has promised the land to Israel for the duration of the messianic kingdom, Israel today is a very secular, unbelieving nation. When God grants the Land to his believing people, it will be with justice and consideration for all people. We should be careful not to expect kingdom conditions to prevail in this present church age.  

Fifth, appreciate the fact that there are no simple solutions to this issue. The problem is unbelievably complex and intensely emotional. It will take strong and courageous leadership on both sides to bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict in our day.

Finally, as the psalmist said, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). And let’s especially remember to pray our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and coordinates the Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Loving Your Enemy: A Biblical Alternative to Revenge” (Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, July 2011).