Back from Israel, Still Reading March 31
I returned just over a week ago from Israel, touring with Insight for Living for a week and a half. As always it was a great trip. I really enjoyed my Jewish guide, Mark Sugarman, who is so full of information and a joy to be around. However, this trip also involved a trip to Bethlehem to a conference hosted by Palestinian Christians called Christ at the Checkpoint. I spoke, as did Lynne Hybels, and we heard from the President of the Palestinian Authority at the conference. We also toured a 60 year old refugee camp. I have waited to write about this because the experience was so profound it took some processing. My topic was the land. I was asked in because they knew I held to a future for Israel and that they had a right to the land, which I explained (although I complicated things by also noting the land also belongs to the Messiah [opening up some interesting possibilities for a solution], Israel has responsibility to behave justly [as her Exodus experience was to make her sensitive to foreigners in her midst], and that her house is "desolate" until she responds to her Messiah [secular Israel is not equal to covenant beneficiary Israel]). I spoke for 30 minutes, took questions for about an hour, spoke with individuals that afternoon. We are working on a transcript to post down the road on the conference website. I learned why the issue of land settlements is so sensitive (given the history of 1948 and the right of return) and how they feel about the wall that surrounds much of the West Bank. It was a chance for me to hear the other half of the story. I was grateful I did. I have been reading since. Benny Morris is a Jewish Israeli historian who has written a wonderful account of the 1948 War. He is part of the Israeli "revisionist" school, which means he has made an effort to write with an eye to both sides of the conflict. In this study of the War that established the state of Israel and put it on the map you can see the seeds of much of what we are still dealing with practically in the Middle East. He also has written an even more superb study of the history of the attempt to resolve the dispute, a work called One State, Two States. This book walks through the core history from all perspectives in 200 pages. Morris shows blame exists on all sides of the dispute, but is perceptive in how he analyzes the posturing that goes on in the discussion that most Americans miss. Now I am tackling The Iron Cage, written by a Palestinian, Rashid Khalidi. This last writer is who the Palestinians wanted me to read. I'd recommend these books to anyone wanting to get a sense of the realities on the ground and the clash of perceptions that exist.
Morris, 1948 Morris, One State Khalidi, Iron Cage
I am particularly sensitive to the plight of the Palestinian Christians, who are a minority in their community and also are having to deal with the reality of how Israel handles the region. My thanks to Bethlehem Bible College for hosting me. I look forward to more interaction in the future, as whenever I go to Israel I try to get on both sides of the divide to get a more complete sense of what is happening.