Saturday, 5 February 2011

Our Holy Land

I watched a programme during the course of week where the journalist Louis Theroux, under the title "Ultra-Zionists" examined life in The Holy Land. It was an uncomfortable yet compelling programme to watch.

Let me add some other things to this thought process as I try to work through it. I receive regular emails from a Jerusalemite Christian (I am on a circulation, they are not just for my own edification) who has much to say against Israeli Jews. I have other contacts through the social media who are Jews and speak eloquently in the opposite direction. I have a genuine belief in the proximity of Christians and Jews (and an association with the Council of Christians and Jews, and a burgeoning one with the ICCJ), and am still raw with the emotional wounds of visiting the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. I hear news stories about actions on the part of the Israeli government that cannot be justified (speaking of the attack and murder of aid workers on ships). I am ever aware of the insidious reach of Islamic extremist groups who favour nothing more than a warm moist bed of brewing Palestinian hatred. 

What is absolutely clear to me is that this is absolutely unclear. It is reminiscent of my short stint as a jeweller when I used to set to and unpick knotted fine gold chains with five pins. Even the name is hard to claim without hurting someone. Calling The Holy land 'Palestine' offends Jews, and to call it 'Israel' offends Palestinians. Add to this the fact that not all Palestinians are Muslims (some are Christians and some are indeed Jewish by faith), and that not all Jews are Jews (in the 'observant' sense). Add to that scriptural motivation (expediently or through conviction), political dabbling, their finances and military might - and frankly, if this were a soup of many ingredients it would defy classification, beyond 'unholy mess'. 

Politicians have worked over this issue (and its issues) for decades. It is so much part of the narrative of the world in which I live that until recently, it was like so much white noise. Middle-East, blah blah blah. Guilty as charged. But I was wrong. Why? Because I am a Christian and although not as a resident, I believe that my faith story gives me a stake there. We are talking of nothing less than my Holy Land, my sacred place, the seat of my faith.  I feel increasingly strongly that Christians should have a voice in this almost Titan struggle - yet in a year of blogging not a single post have I seen on the subject. There are people dying over our most revered and treasured shrines. The fights are taking place over the very stones that our Lord walked across, but we seem oddly quiet as a world faith community. I venture to say that Manchester United fans would have more to say if Old Trafford were the scene of such conflict!

I will try to work out my thoughts and feelings on this very difficult situation. I have no doubt that representatives from each 'side' will make their representations (and almost with exception, angrily - born of such hurt). As I write, I have reached no conclusion, apportioned no blame - but am ever of the view that I must have a care. This isn't just a fight between two groups external to me, or us. If this were a a playground, I wonder if the Church wouldn't be the kid standing by watching the other two kids murder one another. 


  1. I have to shame-facedly confess that I avoided this programme, now thanks to your observations I feel it is one to watch on catch-up. thanks.

  2. But, as a kid who ethically and theologically feels a part of the eternal conflict, and is nevertheless geographically an 'outsider', all you can do is to stand on the side-lines and observe the progress as dispassionately as possible.
    Who knows, maybe 'peace in the Middle-East' will become a reality in your lifetime. Not, I'm afraid, in mine.

  3. You beat me to it. I thought about posting after the programme, but couldn't quite get my head around what I wanted to say. I do rather think that there are two rather naive approaches Christians typically take. One is uncritically to endorse anything that Israel and the (ultra) Zionists do. The other is to demonise Israel and Jewish settlers entirely and give uncritical support ot the Palestinian cause. Both of these to me fall far short of what the Church is called to do and be, namely to work to bring about reconciliation and peace. The point is that much of this type of work has, of necessity, to be done well away from the glare of publicity and so is largely unrecognised. If it becomes too well known, then as with much diplomacy its effectiveness is often impaired because those who prefer to play the victim card on either side will cry "Betrayal". However, I believe Andrew White has provided a good model for Christians to work with.

    Back in December I posted a short video with Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian leader, which I consider to be very wise words.

  4. Simmy, thank you. Yes, ++Chacour is a wonderful man, and an interesting bridge between the cultures. He came to Oxford last year and some of the parishioners listened to his lecture. We then featured him in our parish mag! Thank you for the video link.



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