. . . this is why, when a squad of Israeli police burst into the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (second most holy site on the temple dome), pushing Palestinian attendants aside in order to cut the loudspeakers broadcasting prayers, in order for the Israeli president to deliver a speech uninterrupted, things began to unravel. Simultaneously, police closed the Damascus Gate (i.e. a designated Arab entrance to the Old City), where young Palestinians gathered at night during Ramadan. In the minds of Palestinians, this was one more unnecessary show of power, and sparks began to fly, igniting the embers of frustration as far away as Gaza. And if this wasn’t enough, a week later, a few hundred members of an extreme-right Jewish group, Lehava, marched through central Jerusalem, chanting “death to Arabs” and attacking Palestinian passers-by.
Witnessing those who are prisoners of ancient grudges, unyielding opinions, conflicting views of history and faith, is it any wonder we ask, “Will this hostility ever end?” Why can’t people set aside their differences and “get along?” Right?
But before casting stones of judgement based upon shallow facts and mere opinions, it’s important that we see ourselves in this narrative. America also suffers divisions, some seeded by perceived wrongs from the past, which have found fresh soil in newfound bitterness and dissatisfaction. We’ve seen them at work in matters involving Confederate statues and flags. We feel their presence in matters of civil rights and injustice. And in this regard, we are not so different from the Israelis and Palestinians who come to blows over land, jobs, and fair treatment.
"We are not launching missiles at one another,” some say in rebuttal to this comparison. To which I can only say, “But, for how long?” We too find ourselves in fear of our lives because of lethal gunfire and caustic assaults of verbal hate! How long before these disparate sources of vitriol find unity, not in a specific cause, but shared emotion — hate?
I pray that our divisions never reach the boiling point witnessed recently in Israel. But if not confronted sooner, rather than later, they will coalesce in destructive and deadly ways.
We can attempt to calm, maybe solve, the infighting in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians — people of a common heritage and land — but ultimately, peace must be of their own making. Not ours! Our charge is to recognize the perils that lay before us, building upon what we have in common, not different. Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Only we can keep our house standing in these contentious times. And the work begins with setting aside the sticks and stones that are breaking our bones, and instead share grace and forgiveness; understanding and respect with each other. Turning those labeled foes into friends and perceived enemies into co-workers for the common good.
For God called some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to work . . . until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without.
Ephesians 4: 11