When I visited Israel at the beginning of 2020, everything seemed fairly peaceful, although there was a rumour going round that a nasty new virus was becoming a threat. At the airport they asked us if we had been to China. We hadn’t.
We stayed in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, from where we visited Caesarea Philippi. It was the furthest north we went, and according to the Bible, the furthest north Jesus took his disciples. From there we could see into Syria and Lebanon, and we were told that the area was closely monitored because of the latent threat from across the borders.
Later we sailed on the Sea of Galilee. It was a moment of memorable calm and beauty.
Eventually we travelled further south and stayed in Bethlehem, where we met – unsurprisingly – many Palestinians. If we had stayed in Bethlehem another couple of days, we would not have been able to leave easily, because it was locked down. Covid had arrived.
From then on we had our own problems, but the problem within Israel/Palestine was ongoing. And it will remain ongoing because men of violence want it to be. The history of the land is complicated, and no-one is completely innocent. It is undeniable that many Jews and Arabs would happily live side by side – and have done so over the years. Many would be happy with a two-state solution, but this is rejected by Arab leaders even though the projected Palestinian portion of the country has always been much larger.
In the end this is a typical case of wanting it all, and in order to get it all, generating hate and violence, not caring whether your own people suffer in the process. Few people are happy with the current relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, but the military readiness and restrictions have been forced on the Israelis because they have been repeatedly under attack. Undoubtedly some Israelis have taken advantage of this, but most just want to live in peace.
And how do you live in peace with someone who hates you? The obvious way is by showing strength in defence. Watch the usual spaces.
But I suppose that as a Christian my answer – much, much easier said than done – is to show them love. Of course we know what happens then. Jesus was a Jew, after all. He was also a Palestinian. Someone could get crucified. The question is, do we believe in resurrection?