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.
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.