We had a free morning on our last day in Israel. Ten of us decided to make our way to the Dung gate and walk up to the Temple Mount. This is, as Rev. Bryan George noted, the most highly contested piece of real estate in the world. We felt the tension of this place immediately after we started heading up the ramp to the top. You have to go through extra security, a metal detector, and any bags have to be searched. The Israeli army polices the entire area. You hear chanting from the Western Wall and chanting form Muslims on top of the wall. The air is just ripe with tension.
While we were there, some Muslim women were shouting “Ala is great.” Some Orthodox Jews had tried to gain access to the Temple Mount and the police had to separate the two groups. Our guide says this happens every day. These two groups agitate each other continually, like spoiled children. We saw the group of Muslim women afterwards and they were giving themselves high-fives and fist pumps. It was so funny. We could not understand them, but it was like they were saying, “We did it, we did it, it’s my birthday, it’s my birthday! We did something today Beth. What are you having for supper tonight? See you tomorrow at the same time? Text me if you want to meet earlier.”
With all of its incredible beauty, this contested land is not all that special. Is a 35 acre piece of land, with no guaranteed water source or fertile soil, worth so much discord and bloodshed? During the Byzantine or early Christian era, the Temple Mount was nothing more than a refuse pile where the inhabitants of Jerusalem placed their garbage and unwanted items. It was not until the 691 CE that the Moslems built the Dome of the Rock to commemorate the place where Mohammad ascended. It just so happens to be the place where Jews believe that Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac and we know its where the various Jewish Temple’s stood.
In so many ways, the entire Middle East situation is so sad. There are no winners and all losers. We need to support Israel, but in doing so, we often disregard the Middle Eastern Christian community, which is stuck in the middle. These Christians need us and need our support. Mostly they need our prayers….. The current political situation in Israel is not a good one for this minority community. It will become even smaller as the Israeli government continues to press them out of their homes and cities. No one can stay in an area if there is no work. There can be no work if free access to vital transportation and economic relief cannot be found. Israel, along with its Muslim and Christian population, needs to build bridges instead of walls. Walls are not EVER the answer.
We had the opportunity to visit with some local Arab Christians in Bethlehem. It was delightful, but we realized that their life is very difficult. They cannot travel from city to city and they have family members that they cannot ever see. We take our freedom of movement for granted!
Bethlehem sits across a valley from a large “illegal” Jewish settlement. While the inhabitants of Bethlehem are walled into their city by a wall that is at least 15’ tall, covered with barbed wire and electrified, the Jewish settlement has free access to wherever its inhabitants want to go. Also, Bethlehem has to sparingly ration its water supply, storing it in containers on their roof. The settlement inhabitants water their lawns. Where is the justice?
Jerusalem has never had peace. The Psalmist writes n Psalm 122, “6 Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. 7 Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.” 9 For the sake of the Lord our God’s house I will pray for your good.” If Jerusalem would have peace, maybe, just maybe, peace could come to Hartwell, Bowman, Anderson, and maybe even Atlanta. If all goes well, then peace could come to Ohio, just kidding Ohio friends!
Please stop what you are doing and pray right now for peace. Pray fervently. Pray without ceasing. Pray as if your life depended on it. Pray as if the world depended on it. Pray as if nothing depended on it. Just PRAY. . .
See you on Sunday!