Pages:8 (2387 words)
Document Type:Creative Writing
Understanding Israel and Palestine
“A denial of life is a rejection of the God of life” (Keum 4). This gets to the heart of what I felt as I experienced Palestine for myself. Seeing the West Bank in person allowed me to witness a whole new level of marginalization and oppression that I had never seen before—even though I had been to South Africa and India. Here the marginalization was so deliberate, so offensive, so hypocritical and unchristian that I was shocked to find Christians here in Bethlehem who still found joy in life and calmly expressed their faith in God. To see the Israelis treating the people on the West Bank with such contempt, illegally building settlements, bulldozing their acreage and fruit trees and homes, erecting barriers of humiliation, treating these people like animals and criminals—it was to understand exactly the affirmation of the WCC publication that “a denial of life is a rejection of the God of life.” The Israelis are denying the people here their life and in doing so they are denying the God of life. They may boldly declare that they are the original chosen people of God—but their actions indicate that they are rejecting God at every step of the way.
God does not want His children fighting with one another. St. Paul clearly states in the Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:8) that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…. Love is patient and kind; love gdoes not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This is the kind of love that I would expect to find from the true people of God, the true children of God. Yet the West Bank is a nightmare—a place where one group is seriously and horribly oppressing another group. I find no love or peace or beauty coming from the Israeli side: it is devastatingly sad. And yet the people of the West Bank, whose homes I visited radiated the warmth and genuine friendliness of God’s love, indicating to me that these were the real chose ones, the real children of God.
But God’s love is something that must be demonstrated through our actions and so it makes sense to find it even here. The idea of the Mission is here: “Mission has been understood as a movement taking place from the centre to the periphery, and from the privileged to the marginalized of society” (Keum 5). We in the West have a great deal of privilege. We should see it as an honor to be so privileged because it is an opportunity for us to do a great deal for others who are suffering. Just as Christ left home to heal others, we can serve in a similar Mission—like what the Mission in Palestine is doing, even though it is treated poorly by the Israeli state. The marginalized are there and the Mission to bring them comfort, peace, joy, and God’s grace is a great one.
The problems encountered appear to be one of “he said, she said,” with Israel accusing the Mission of lying and of being anti-Semitic. Any criticism of Israel’s conduct is always excoriated as being anti-Semitic. One is not permitted to condemn Israel’s illegal actions, illegal settlements on the West Bank, inhumane and barbaric treatment of the oppressed Palestinians. One is not permitted to sympathize or empathize with the Palestinians because then one is “anti-Semitic” and is deemed a prejudiced liar by the Israeli state. It is completely antithetical to the truth. But this should not be surprising because the Israeli state is anti-God, so it seems. The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth” (WCC 9)—and wherever the truth is one will find the Holy Spirit. Whenever those who are opposed to truth take action that action will be some sort of persecution of the Holy Spirit. This is what one can see on the West Bank.
As Keum states in the WCC publication: “The churches are called to discern the work of the life-giving Spirit sent into the world and to join with the Holy Spirit in bringing about God’s reign of justice (Acts 1:6-8)” (11). This is why there is purpose there on the West Bank, why there is a mission there. It is this communion with the Spirit that gives meaning to life, that makes one realize what life is really all about. It is not…
…to consider. There are other organizations, however, that I could join to help be part of the community that aims to stop the oppression and that aims to serve the marginalized people on the West Bank. I see the Spirit at work in the WCC community and in my own community in terms of how it is dedicated to bringing awareness to others about what is going on in Palestine. I was able to see this by being part of a school that is open to sharing the reality of this situation with others. Now that I have witnessed it, I want to work with the Spirit and bring more people in—because that is how true transformation happens. The Spirit is not hidden: it is shone forth to others so that everyone can participate in the light of truth.
Act (p. 52): What urgent steps must leaders in your local faith community take to empty themselves of privilege for the sake of the disempowered? How can they demonstrate the church’s commitment to exposing deceptive powers that deny people fullness of life?
Urgent steps that leaders must take in my local faith community include divesting themselves of their luxurious possessions, their fine clothes, cars, and even homes if they have them. Leaders should show that they care about the common people by living among the common people and like the common people rather than in gated communities. How else are you going to understand what the needs of the common people are? Christ went out to the common people; he lived with them, ate with them, became friends with them. He did not hide away in an ivory tower and talk to them as though from on high. He did not live a life of privilege at all. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger—a food trough for animals. He was the antithesis of today’s privileged leaders and classes. Our leaders should be more like Christ, living humbly and embracing a spirit of poverty. In this manner they will be better able to demonstrate the church’s commitment to exposing deceptive powers that deny people the fullness of life. If they themselves are taking part in the deception by living a life of luxury and ignoring the plight of the common man they are not going to able to give the common man the support and example…
Keum, Jooseop, ed. Together towards life: Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes: With a practical guide. World Council of Churches Publications, 2013.
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