Tuesday, December 30

Making Sense of Jesus

As I write, Israel is bombing the Gaza Strip. Israel says the goal of the bombing is to stop a stream of rockets being fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities. Hamas says the rockets are a response to Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza.

There are several things that are difficult about this bombing. I've just walked home from speaking with neighbors about why the bombing of Gaza and why firing rockets at Israel are both wrong. People are dying. Numbers start to become meaningless and leave you numb: Israeli news tells us that hundreds of rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip in the past six months. Our Palestinian neighbor's TV tells us that 350 people have been killed, 1500 wounded. Do these things even matter? There's no way we can know the names of all the people who have been killed. There's no way we will ever understand what it's like to live in an Israeli town close to the border and have seconds to get to cover because another rocket has been fired from Gaza.

Both of these issues lead us to a different set of questions: how should we respond to these things? What do we say to Israelis that point out what it's like for residents of those Israeli towns? What do we say to Palestinians in Gaza who have had homes come crashing down on them as a result of missiles fired from airplanes? In such a heated atmosphere as this, people are quick to dismiss you if you seem to support either 'side'. One thing we try to do is to help those around us see what we see; when I talk with Mohammed, Ahmed, Noora, Moshe, Jacob, or Ronit, I'm not talking with 'one of them', I'm talking with neighbors, acquaintances, friends. We wish those militants launching rockets or the pilots dropping bombs could see the same. PEOPLE live there, not Jews or Arabs; people.

At home, in North America, we feel so helpless. We can raise our voice in protest but we alone can't change the fact that people here are committing violent acts against one another. We can't help that Israel begins bombing the Gaza Strip, treating all the men, women, children, all the families there, as if they are the very same people committing the horrible acts of launching rockets towards Israeli towns.

Sitting here, in Israel/Palestine, we still feel helpless. We can speak to friends and neighbors and explain why not all 'Jews want to take over all of Palestine' or why not all 'Arabs want to kill Israelis.' It's something, but it feels like so little when rockets are being fired, bombs are being dropped, and entire people groups have made each other the 'enemy'. So what can we do? One small but (we think) significant thing, is to love the people around us well. We can live what it means to be in the Kingdom of God and provide an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus in a world that is fallen. 'Love your enemies and do good to those that persecute you' seems easy enough, until you actually have enemies and are suffering persecution. It's not easy to live in God's Kingdom and physically be in a different place, but this is what God asks of his followers. Because we are not Palestinian or Israeli, we aren't invested in the conflict here in the same way. And yet we love those around us, who are invested in it. We can touch their lives and speak to them as close friends. Living in a place like this, Jesus suddenly starts to make more sense. This is why Jesus talked so much about loving 'others' and our 'enemies' and there being a 'narrow gate'. He makes more sense when we have to fight through our natural reaction to protect ourselves and what's ours and start the striving required to truly love other people that are different than us. We live in God's Kingdom, while residing in a different place.

Please pray for the people of Gaza. Pray for those who are trapped in homes or have missiles being shot at them and haven't done anything wrong. Pray for those who live in Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon who have had rockets shot at them. Pray for those firing missiles from helicopters and airplanes and those launching rockets, that they will see the humanity of those they view as enemies. Pray that this place of long-standing conflict will know peace and that all people here, whether Jew, Christian, or Muslim, can live with equal rights in a place free of war, suspicion, and hatred.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I'm working on a research paper regarding NGOs within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and I have spoken with MCC reps in Akron previously. I'm interested in asking you a few questions regarding programs, areas of focus, limitations, etc. Please contact me if you would be willing to speak on the subjects: rachbhale@gmail.com