This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Days’ War. This took place from 5th – 10th June, 1967, between Israel and its Arab neighbours and resulted in Israel taking land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Some of this has been given back in the intervening years, but not the West Bank and Gaza, which are still occupied in breach of international law. This is the root of the conflict in Israel-Palestine today.
It’s not the only cause, though... It goes back much further to the aftermath of the Second World War, when Britain let go of Palestine, allowing the Jewish militias to establish the State of Israel. In the process many Palestinians were sent into exile or killed, some of which was certainly ‘ethnic cleansing’. That will be another anniversary – the seventieth – in May of next year. No doubt there will be great celebrations in Israel, but Palestinians will be remembering their Nakba (catastrophe).
But the history doesn’t stop there... This November marks yet another anniversary – the centenary of the British Balfour Declaration which favoured ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.’
These events are clearly viewed very differently by different groups of people. Some Christians have gone so far as to see the hand of God in it, a modern-day fulfilment of certain prophecies made in the Old Testament about the people of Israel being gathered together again in their land. But the New Testament doesn’t interpret the Old Testament that way. It looks forward to a day when all God’s people – Jews and Gentiles – will be gathered together in God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.
Following centuries of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust it was right that the Jewish people should have a place to call home, where they could live in peace and security. But it is equally right that the Palestinian people are able to do the same. The Lord is a God of justice – he does not show partiality, and neither should we. The continued occupation is a major obstacle to peace and it is essential that after fifty years of it, we make the greatest effort to work for a just peace.
The Amos Trust have circulated these words to help us to pray for all the people of Israel-Palestine at this time:
‘You will declare this fiftieth year to be sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the country’s inhabitants.’ (Leviticus 25.10)
Gracious God, we ask that this may be the year of your Jubilee for Israel and Palestine when all the inhabitants of the Holy Land will know liberation.
We ask that your Spirit will strengthen and renew the vision of all those in Israel and Palestine who work for peace, and that past failures will not hold them back.
We ask that Muslim, Christian and Jew will recognise their shared humanity and equal worth, as those created by you in your image. We long for a time when differences will be celebrated and neighbours will no longer live in fear of one another.
God of Justice, we ask that equal rights will flourish under just laws that protect all people, so that all who call the Holy Land ‘home’ will be able to celebrate their freedom and security.
We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, who is able to lift us from the valley of despair to the bright mountain top of hope. Amen.
With every blessing