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Israel & Christians Today
Biblical understanding about Israel
“Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
By Andrew Tucker.. “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
This statement by Golda Meir kept returning to my mind as we travelled and met with many people in Israel this last week. There is a conflict going on in the Middle East, and it has to do with the way we value life and death.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people have lost their lives in the massive upheavals in the Middle East in recent months. In the last few weeks, over 100 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza, as a result of Israeli incursions following the refusal of Hamas to cease the rocket attacks on Israel. Three Palestinian Arab boys were killed on a Gaza beach. No doubt more lives will be lost as Israel moves ground troops into Gaza to destroy the tunnels and weapon depots. How are we to value these lost lives? Are the lives of three Jews more important than those of 100 Arab Palestinians? Should Israel be allowed to kill innocent Palestinians in its effort to protect its own citizens?
The kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers for the sole reason that they are Jews touched the soul of the nation. It followed the brutal murder of two Israeli Jews in Brussels in mid-May. These events released different, profound reactions in Israel. There were those who called for reprisal. But overwhelmingly there was a desire to protect the citizens of the nation from those who are determined to sacrifice the lives of their own children to achieve the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. And when Israel demands the right to protect its citizens, let’s not forget that 20% of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish – Arabs and others who enjoy more freedom, prosperity and individual rights than in any other country in the region.
It seems to me that Israel is not just protecting its citizens. It is protecting the right to protect its citizens. It is protecting the right to build a society that is based on the value of life itself.
The resilience and commitment of the Jewish people in the face of all odds are remarkable. As hundreds of rockets were pouring into Israel this last week, we met many ordinary Israeli’s who were doing all they could to ensure that life would go on as normal. That is the essence of Judaism. Aleh is a non-profit organization that was established thirty years ago in Israel to care for severely handicapped children (Jews and Arabs). With four facilities throughout the country, Aleh is now a world leader in making the lives of handicapped children one of dignity and beauty. Volunteers and staff dedicate hundreds of hours to love and cherish these children and support their families. Similarly, the staff and volunteers at the Jewish Agency are working tirelessly to offer new immigrants opportunities to learn skills and build a life in Israel. At the Hineni centre in Jerusalem, founder and director Benjamin Philip leads a team of paid and volunteer staff who help disadvantaged youths, and provide meals for the elderly and homeless. We met him just as he was leaving to take one thousand food survival packages to families who are forced to spend hours per day in bunkers in the south of the country. These are just a few examples.
The challenges and dilemma’s facing Israel are enormous. Are they to simply give in to those who are willing to sacrifice the lives of their children to achieve the destruction of the Jewish people? When Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to agree to a cease-fire with Hamas, he was criticized by the right in Israel for being too weak, and by the left for not being accommodating enough. There are no simple solutions.
Israel has proven that it will go to extraordinary lengths to protect the civilian population of Gaza. No other nation in the world takes such extreme measures to avoid collateral damage, for example by making telephone calls to warn those who are in danger of being hit. But it is impossible to prevent death when the enemy is using its own citizens as human shields.
Of course Israel is not perfect. Mistakes are made. There are elements of Israeli society where religious fanaticism seems to be more important than love. The brutal slaughter of an Arab Palestinian boy in Jerusalem has left a deep stain on the Israeli conscience.
Yet I left Israel deeply impressed by the innate determination of the Jewish people to cherish the lives of the weakest. And to fight for the right to choose to do so. This love of life is a value we seem to have lost in the West. Which is perhaps one of the reasons we find it difficult to understand the Jewish people.
We long for the day that Messiah will come, and the nations will train for war no more, the word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem, and peace will cover the whole earth. Until then, we live in a broken world in which we are called to make choices between life and death, good and evil, blessing and curse.
It is in this broken world that the quality of any society is to be measured by the extent to which it values the lives of the weakest of its citizens. The right to choose life is worth fighting for, and every civilized nation – including Israel - has not only the right but also the obligation to defend that right. The alternative is violence, chaos and death.
Just look at Gaza and Syria.
Andrew Tucker is Executive Director of Christians for Israel International (www.c4israel.org) and Legal Counsel to the European Coalition for Israel (www.ec4i.org)
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