Walls Don’t Build Peace

I doubt there is anyone who travels to the Holy Land without experiencing ‘the wall’.  I’m sure there are lots of tourists who travel up and down the motorways and wonder why the roadside barriers are 10 feet tall but you can’t ignore it.  I’m no expert.  These are just my thoughts and reflections.  If I’m wrong, tell me.  If I’m right, tell me too.

Watchtower

Nothing really prepares you for ‘the wall’.  I’ve seen pictures, news reports and read other people’s blogs about it but that’s not the same as standing at a checkpoint watching people coming and going, or being turned away for no reason other than the soldier feels like it.

The Israelis call it the Security Wall.  The Palestinians call it the Segregation Wall.

I understand why Israel wants to keep who would blow up or shoot people out.  But what I don’t get is the way in which they seem to have completely forgotten their history as a people.  The very reason for the modern state of Israel’s existence was the Holocaust.  In many cities throughout Europe the Nazis rounded up the Jews and forced to live in ghettos, walled in to separate them from everyone else.  I’m not suggesting that Israel has set about the systematic extermination of the Palestinians but there are times when they seem to have come perilously close.

I always thought ‘the wall’ was a border.  It’s not.  The wall zig-zags across the country, separating people from each other, farmers from their fields, families from their relatives and workers from their workplaces.

Israel has deliberately fractured Palestinian society.  People are caged in.  Stopped from travelling.  People who are not Jews have no status in Israel.  They don’t get passports.  They have ‘temporary residence cards’ instead, even those who have lived there all their lives.  They are not allowed to build homes.  If they do the army come along and bulldoze them.

All of this doesn’t seem to be a recipe for peace.  Separation breeds mistrust.  Walls build division.  Guns bread fear.

And what have the Christian Church to say about all this?  Well we make pronouncements.  We support initiatives.  The Church of Scotland has an £8million 5 Start hotel.

In the Holy Land there seem to be two kinds of Christian.  The ones who live there who are mostly Arabs and the ‘professional Christians’ who are stationed in Jerusalem or at other Holy Sites.  The sad thing is that the Professional Christians seem more interested in fighting over who owns which bit of which Holy Site than actually contributing to the peace process.

The Christians who live in the Holy Land seem stuck.  They are stuck between the Jews and the Muslims.  Because they are Arabs they don’t have the same rights as Jews in Israel.  Because they are not Muslims they are often treated with mistrust in Palestine.  They are stuck in the middle.

But maybe the middle is a good place to be.  Maybe the middle is the place that Jesus calls them to be.  Blessed are the peacemakers after all.  I wonder how we can help?  I wonder how we can stand there in the middle with them?

Any ideas about solving the world’s longest running conflict?

I’m thinking getting rid of ‘the wall’ might be a start.

4 thoughts on “Walls Don’t Build Peace”

  1. Having just experienced ‘The Wall’ for the first time too, I echo your extremely well written observation. I only wish I knew how to help….

  2. The same hostilities were there when Jesus walked the earth…they were still fighting 2000 years ago over the same issues and they did not listen to Jesus then…and they are not listening now.

    What were his two commandments to supercede all others? Oh, yes, the first was to love one another, the second, to love your neighbour as yourself. They still apply, more than ever, for Christ’s message is eternal.

    We can continue to pray that deaf ears will open to God’s message of love and that hardened hearts will be open to God’s peace…otherwise they, and we, will surely perish.

    Come and escape for a while in the garden at Barleycorn, where the God of Creation inspires me and feeds my soul and helps me cope with life’s adversities 🙂

  3. I was there, there on the 3 January 2000. The doves had flown over Manger Square and disappeared. I was even given a special gold coin to comemorate the dawning of the millenium – given as a symbol of prayed-for peace. Every time I look at this coin I reflect on the gunshots so narrowly missing a colleague later that year in July, I study my Christmas cards of the ‘tranquil’ pictures of Bethlehem and of Christ’s Birth, I sing the carols ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ and ‘O starry night.’ Yet, so far from the truth of it all. The Wall weighs heavy in my heart and I can only think that if we are called to be in the middle we can only do so by continuing with our prayers and with the task of never loosing an opportunity to portay the Holy Land as it is now and not as it is portrayed on our Christmas Cards.

  4. It has to be one of the most intractable geo-political situations in the world. Sadly, there is a propensity in the British media to be extremely one-sided; anti-Israeli, pro-Arab. I do believe that we have a responsability to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and to fight for justice.

    However, it isn’t as simple as the wall is bad. Israel hasn’t fractured Palestinian society. ‘Palestine’ has never governed itself, nor been a political entity. People forget that until Trans-Jordan (present day Jordan) was previously part of Palestine. It was divided by the British. During WW1 Britain guaranteed the Jews a homeland in Palestine. The division of Palestine into Trans-Jordan and Palestine should have ended the matter with Palestine for the Jews and Jordan for the Arabs. That was the promise, but as usual in the history of Imperialism, winds and appetites change and promises fail. Even after the horror of the Nazis wiping out the vast majority of Europe’s Jewish communities, Britain refused to do the right thing in agreeing the creation of the Jewish State and passed it over to the UN.

    The Arabs (who never called themselves Palestinians) were badly served by their leadership. Britain had brought several plans to the Jewish and Arab leaderships about potential divisions of the land. Each time the Jewish leadership accepted them, the Arabs rejected them – even to the point of the Jews being given stupid pockets of land. But no, the Arabs wanted to “drive the dogs into the sea”. So, when the UN accepted the division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab territories, and Israel was created, asking for peace with her neighbours, the entire might of the Arab world’s military was unleashed against the fledgling Jewish state. She defended herself, and ended up with more territory than the division would have given her. Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem (West Bank) were occupied by Jordan, while the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt. Jordan annexed the West Bank. The Arab population of both territories were not given any autonomy or right to govern themselves. (This stands as a continuing inditement to the Arab World when they claim to defend the Palestinians – which they’ve never done).

    The issue of Refugees is also a dreadful one. It is criminal that over 60 years after the creation of Israel, those displaced – and their descendents – are in camps in Lebanon etc. The creation of Israel led to Arabs leaving their homes now under Israeli territorial control (however that happened). At the same time 1m Jewish people from across the Arab world – from Morrocco to Iraq – were expelled and fled to Israel. These refugees arrived with nothing. Israel absorbed them. What happened to the Arab refugees? The Arab world herded them into camps, oppressed them, ignored them, politicised them and used them for their media campaign (look at terrible Israel).

    The legacy today on both sides is horrific. The attitude of the Jewish Settler movement is very sad. Its driven by their understanding of Scripture, but it is also fed by a) continual persecution of the Jewish people for thousands of years b) the Holocaust c) Arab hatred of the Jews d) the Arab-Israeli Wars e) terrorism and the Intifada.

    The whole question of defence in Israel is driven by the maxim – the Arabs can lose every war, Israel can only lose one. i.e. if Israel loses one war they are all wiped out. Israel is tiny – only the size of Wales. It takes little time from coast to river. Israel had spent almost 2 decades – including a peace process – to stop terrorism. The wall was a last resort. And it has worked. Its a costly solution and inevitably a short term one. The way Israel has conducted itself in certain regards with respect to the ‘occupied territories’ has been ridiculous, immoral and self defeating. The vast majority of Israelis (excluding the far right and the Settler sets) believe the idea of ‘Greater Israel’ is dead.

    But Israel has been willing to live in peace. It has traded land for peace – Egypt being the best example. Israel needs peace – and the Palestinians do as well. The Arab world has behaved dispicably towards the Palestinians – one of the greatest scandals of the international scene. It is in the interests of the Arab League and certain other Muslim States (notably Iran) that the Palestinians are seen to be oppressed and Israel is seen as an aggressor. There can be no long lasting peace without all organisations and leaderships accepting the long term reality and existence of Israel as a viable legitimate state. HAMAS, etc need to reform. The Palestinian leadership – sadly a misnomer because the whole scene is so fragmented – must be more unified and stable, willing to compromise and strive for peace. Israel must be willing to compromise, and work towards a 2 state solution. Sadly, a federal system is totally unrealistic and will never happen. The Palestinian population cannot be removed from the Territories (at one point that may have been an option however morally bankrupt it would have been). The question of Jerusalem is the eternal disaster as compromise on either side is unlikely. Perhaps the Old City will be able to be shared, with the PA administering the Muslim Quarter and either the Armenian or Christian Quarter, and Israel administering the Jewish Quarter and one other Quarter. Also Eastern Jerusalem would need to be split with Israel and Palestine administering areas. Such common sense is far from possible just now.

    It all comes down to the fact that the Palestinians need to control their extremes and stop terrorism against Israel, and Israel needs to recognise that they cannot stop the self determination of their Palestinian neighbours.

    And in it all the Christians are stuck. Any conversion from their birth faith to Christian faith is treated badly in both Israel and the PA, though the intensity of reaction is different. But there are Christians who are crossing the borders and leading the way. Of course, Jesus is really the only answer for the division in the Holy Land – but then, he’s the only solution here too.

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