I love this picture. It was drawn by a pupil in Palestine and given to me as part of the exchange programme we are running. It shows the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the way Palestinians are forbidden access to it, even though it is in their city. This only touches the tip, though, of the human rights abuses Palestinians face on a daily basis. Another picture given to me (since destroyed in the rain) was a picture of a pupil’s home – a tent. His parents were forced out of their homes 40 years ago and are now living in camps. They have lost all rights to their homes and aren’t even allowed to travel into Israel, let alone go back to their home towns. Every day Palestinians face humiliating and intimidating treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers. An enormous wall has been erected around the West Bank. One school we are linked with is on the wrong side of the wall. Each day pupils must go through the wall. It is only open between 7am and 7.30. Sometimes soldiers arrive early and pupils miss getting through. They have to wait at the wall until 2 o’clock before it opens again.
I know a lot of this is familiar to most of you who are reading this, but I just want to make a point about Christian allegiances in this conflict. Many Christians have an instinctive support for Israel, based on the fact that they were the people of God in the Old Testament and that they were promised the land of Israel “for ever as an everlasting possession.” Whatever you think of these promises, and the extent to which they are still applicable today, it seems to me there is one thing we could all agree on: Israel, in the Bible, was never beyond criticism – even damning criticism - when it neglected justice. Jesus called Jerusalem to repentance (Luke 13:34). In fact the promises to Israel were conditional (Lev. 20:22) and in the New Testament, John the Baptist railed at those who claimed exemption from judgement by claiming, "We have Abraham as our father." (Matthew 3:9) We, also, should not support Israel while it engages in the confiscation of property and racial apartheid, simply on the basis that Abraham was their father. It was always the extent to which they followed justice that determined whether or not they were the people of God.
“Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.” (Lev. 20:22)