Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Be a brick, just not in the wall.
Which photo? So many to choose, but which one to use? Should it be the one of the stacks of riot shields stored ready at the entrance to the El Asqua Mosque in Jerusalem, or how about that close up of the shiny new razor wire protecting a Jewish family recently moved into a house in the Moslem Quarter. I would have used the photo of the bored eighteen year old who got us all off the bus from Bethlehem to check our passports and identity cards, but I didn't take that photo. The idea of being hauled away and searched didn't appeal. So I offer you a rather uncreative but "to the point" picture of the security wall separating Jewish and Palestinian communities in Palestine.
The appearance of this wall, and it's effect on the daily lives of thousands of people has been one of the greatest changes in the time since my last visit to Israel. When I last came here the difference in standard of living between Jewish and Palestinian communities was noticeable, but was not too great. Now the difference is vast and readily apparent. It is like the difference between two adjacent gardens; one with verdant growth and lush lawns, where careful nurture and investment has paid off; the other, over the fence, neglected and weed grown, it's owner no longer having the ability to care for it.
Palestinians will correctly point out the many injustices of its creation: the olive groves that have been destroyed, the workers cut off from their work, the humiliation of their women and their elderly at the hands of adolescent lads with assault rifles. The Jews will, also correctly, point to the significant reduction in violence since its creation.
I don't have an answer to the Israel/Palestine problem, and if I did it would take a book and not a blog to even summarise, but I believe that as with all similar situations, it begins with a story, or possibly stories: Maybe it begins with the story of Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 17) a story where the ancestral line of Jew and Arab divide and God's blessing goes only with one (which one depends on whose story you read). Maybe in includes the challenge presented to Mohammed by minor local kingdoms converting to Judaism in the faced of his new nascent philosophy, or his later destruction of a Jewish community that had tried to resist him. Maybe we should also recall the artless politicking of the Crusader period, or the only slightly less shoddy diplomacy that established the British Mandate following the Ottoman collapse. And, of course, we can't ignore the holocaust and the rise of Arab nationalism. Added to that are the many terrorist/legitimate-responses of the past few years. There are many stories that go to make up the current situation, and they will not be easily untangled.
I reluctantly conclude that a dividing barrier is maybe the right thing for now. As in Northern Ireland communities in conflict sometimes need to be kept apart so that they can experience the results of a lack of conflict. That is peace keeping. But it is not peace making. Peace making is far harder. That, I suspect, will require the Jews to get over their sense of guilt about their powerlessness around the holocaust and the Palestinians to lower the shield of pride which prevents compromise. Maybe someone should book the entire nation in for a series of meeting with Relate, the marriage guidance people.
We are enjoined to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122). That will only come through peace for all her people, Jew, Palestinian, and all who come to wonder at her story and who see her in her pain. Remember how Jesus summed up the Law? "Love the Lord your God", and "love your neighbour as yourself", Luke 10:27. An attempted solution that ignores these rules cannot hope to succeed.
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