Pray For the Peace of Jerusalem Part 1
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During the last few weeks there has been a constant assault upon both Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. I am writing this article from an amazing hotel in downtown Jerusalem. The Sabbath has just ended with its tradition and peace. Despite the fact that at least half of the residents of Jerusalem are not observant Jews, it was very pleasant to see a great measure of peace settle down upon the entire region. At least half of the residents purposely slow down their pace, turn off their cell phones, televisions, and computers…and they actually talk to one another. The Sabbath meal seems to be the place where both religious and family lessons are passed on. The oral tradition of their “tribe” is explored and a unique connection with their own family members is forged in this rigidly scheduled time. In some ways history is rehearsed, but on a larger scale, their family history is being made.
Just yesterday I had dinner in the home of a couple who emigrated from America, but all five of their kids had been born in Israel. Only three of their children were there last night, two were actively serving in the military. It was surprising to me that the son, who was in officer’s training, had travelled home from the north to observe the Sabbath.
The small group of American Christians I am traveling with engaged in conversation, worship, and religious dialogue. As we sat together and ate, our conversation could not help but veer from religion and family life to terrorism and war. Actually, it had been exactly two weeks before our meal that five members of a Jewish family - just like theirs - had been murdered in their West Bank settlement home in a place called Itamar, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Both parents and three of the children were killed. Reporters made much of the fact that two of the family had their throats cut in a savage and bloody way. Maj. Gen Avi Mizrahi of the Israeli Military Central Command made the following statement after visiting the site, “An innocent family – a father, mother and three of their children – were murdered in the middle of the night by despicable terrorists...Rest assured, we are on a hunt for those responsible, and we will find them.” Although the Palestinians have an ancient right to the West Bank, the Israelis captured the land in the historic Six Day War. Over the years there has developed an uneasy peace in this part of the nation. Today, over 500,000 Jewish settlers live among at least 1.5 million Palestinians. Unfortunately in this season of massive transition in the Middle East, it seems the murderers of this family may have wanted to make a political point by killing a Jewish family. In fact, there were signs these assassins had attempted to enter other Jewish houses with similar grizzly plans on their minds.
It is ironic that the murdered Jewish father was a teacher in a religious school in the settlement. He was a true a man of peace who was killed because of religious pride and a feud that began long before those murdered or the killers were ever born. This event that occurred 9 days before we came was not the only violence in the region.
All week long, Gaza militant groups fired more than 70 rockets at Israel just a week after conducting peace talks with Israeli leaders. The Jewish state reacted by carrying out raids today. In response to these attacks, a violation of the spirit of peace talks that were held between Israelis and Gaza militants just a week before the barrage occurred, Israelis killed five militants and four civilians in retaliatory raids conducted this week.
On Saturday, Hamas representatives vowed to halt rocket fire at Israel – if Israel stopped their raids. One of the problems with dealing with the Hamas is that they, like Iranians and Syrians, deny the historic right of Jews to occupy the land. Therefore, negotiating with these radicals is like fighting with the wind - it never leads to tangible results.
What are the long term implications of the current political environment in the Middle East? Stay tuned…
Read the conclusion of this two-part series appearing later on this week…