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What I Believe and What I Believe is True About Israel

Dear church family,

         Soon I will depart for the second  half of sabbatical leave granted to me by the congregation.  The most significant part of this period will be time spent in Israel.  How fortunate I am to plan on spending two nights in Jerusalem, followed by a ten-day program near Bethlehem.  This program will involve helping farmers with their olive harvest as well as meeting with community and religious leaders.  I will then spend two nights in Nazareth followed by a pilgrimage along "The Jesus Trail" between Nazareth and Capernaum

         If you are familiar with the geography of Israel you will notice that the first part of my visit will take place in the Palestinian Territory (West Bank).  Nazareth and The Jesus Trail, on the other hand, are in the Galilee region, which is Israel proper.   I anticipate meeting many Palestinians and many Israelis.

          Thus the list which follows.  Below are things I believe about Israel and things I believe are true about Israel.  I realize that sounds a bit redundant.  The distinction I am trying to make is the difference between a "belief statement" versus a statement of reality.  Of course, both belief and reality are in many ways subjective.  In addition, the reality we genuinely believe is true often turns out to be different after we learn more.  I hope to learn many things in Israel.  I expect to come home with more knowledge as well as deeper belief. 

           Therefore, some of the things listed here may turn out to be false.  Others will turn out to be true but they will mean something different than I currently think they mean.  If past experience is any indication, once I spend time both in the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank and the Galilee region of Israel proper, I will feel greater connection and love with the people who live there permanently.

Here goes:

1.  For many, many years Jews have sought a safe place to live as Jews.  Over hundreds of years, and all around the world, Jews who were loyal citizens of nations, and who believed themselves completely integrated into their societies, were suddenly the object of violence, exclusion, persecution and genocide.   It is not irrational to believe "it could happen again" that Jews would become the object of these same actions somewhere in the world.  Should that happen, there is little doubt Israel would welcome persecuted Jews in a way the world refused to do following World War II.

2.  Palestinians forced from their homes and villages by world powers when Israel was created were not the ones who had brutalized the Jews during World War II.  Hitler's Third Reich did that.  Yet, it was Palestinian Christians and Muslims who were forced out of their homes.  They are the ones who continue to live as second class citizens in Israel, and as persecuted residents of the Palestinian Territories.

3.  In my view, the Bible is not a legally or morally binding title of land ownership.  The Bible says God promised the land of Canaan (Palestine) to the Jews.  The Bible also documents mass slaughter by the Hebrews against men, women and children living in Canaanite villages.  Although some might say the Jewish people 'own' the land of Israel by the authority of God, others would insist their original claim upon that land was based upon reprehensible, immoral violence.     

4.  I believe today's process of peacemaking in Israel needs to deal with today's reality.  There is too much history to go around!  Smarter minds than mine are at work to balance needs, claims, fair distribution of resources, reparations for losses, human and legal rights, and respect for religious and cultural differences.  Although I don't think history can or should be used as the primary tool for weighing today's outcomes, I do believe honestly acknowledging what really happened both to the Jews and to the Palestinians is an essential building block of respect.

5.  I have done quite a bit of reading in preparation for my trip.  I know I will do more.  I expect and want to return home with high regard for both sides (although there are actually, of course, more than just two sides) in the Israeli/Palestinian heartbreak.  Perhaps I will find a way to connect some of the above beliefs about Israel; no doubt I will return with new beliefs and convictions; and some of what I have written above may, in a month's time, prove an embarrassment that I ever put it into print.

6.  I suspect both sides are badly served by their leaders.  I believe many nations perpetuate the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or at least refuse to step forward to help solve it, because of self-interested politics rather than wholehearted statesmanship.  I question the motives of some who support Israel, just as I question the motives of some who denounce Israel.

7.  At the most basic level, I depart for Israel full of gratitude for the opportunity to go.  I am excited to travel within the land where Jesus spent his life.  I expect to return with hope for good outcomes in the Holy Land.  I hope to do a little good for the farmers who grow olives.  I hope to find signs of faith as I walk The Jesus Trail.  I will honor the depth of religious faith and devotion which I will encounter in Jerusalem.  I will take you with me as I go, and prayers for your welfare will be on my lips when I pray.

Thank you and God bless,

Pastor Diane



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