Lessons of a Holy Land Tour

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How long, then, can we pretend that we are uninvolved?

After years of drawing on stories and teachings from the Bible in my ministry, I was eager to finally see the settings of these very important events firsthand. I also wanted to learn about what is happening in the Holy Land today.

In preparation for our tour in March 2013, we were asked to read the book Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian and the Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church in Galilee. I’d first heard Chacour speak in 2010 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he told of his difficulties in getting a permit from the government in Jerusalem to build a gymnasium for his inter-religious school near Haifa, Israel. Chacour’s school is a peace-building endeavor, drawing together 2,500 students from Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Jewish families from kindergarten through high school.

Chacour eventually received the permit after seeking the help of James Baker, secretary of state under the first President George Bush.

A significant highlight of our tour was visiting Chacour’s school. He pointed out that because of their common descent from Abraham in the Bible, Jews and Palestinians are indeed “blood brothers” who should live in harmony, as they did during his childhood. He believes that his Palestinian ancestors and their Christian faith date back to the time when Jesus and his disciples walked in their villages and olive orchards.

Contrary to the idea that this part of the world was “a land without a people” in 1948, the land was largely occupied by Palestinians, often living comfortably and cooperatively with communities of Jews. But the history of their relationship since Israel became a separate nation in 1948 has been hostile and oppressive.

We were reminded of that on our tour during a heart-wrenching visit to Yad Vashem, the well-known holocaust museum in Jerusalem. As we gathered at a site memorializing a “righteous” Dutch woman for protecting Jews during the holocaust, our sad reminiscing was interrupted by the deafening roar of a half-dozen military helicopters passing over the city.

These powerful instruments of control and suppression undoubtedly cause fear and dread for Palestinians, just as Nazi tanks, trucks, and sirens did for Jews in Western Europe around 1940. Signs of militarism are a part of modern-day life in Israel.

In 1978, I was surprised to learn from a Palestinian Christian living in San Francisco that there were many Palestinian Christians living in Nazareth of Galilee where this man had grown up. While in Israel, I shared this with a Palestinian from Nazareth, who sadly said, “That was in 1978. By now there aren’t many Christian Palestinians in Nazareth. They have moved to other countries.”

In our American enthusiasm for supporting the Jews in Israel, we have ignored the plight of the Palestinians, many of whom leave Israel rather than struggle with nagging fear, great restriction of movement, and limited opportunities for personal fulfillment for themselves and their children.

Much of the news coverage Americans get about Palestinians is dominated by reports on a militant political group known as Hamas, which has governmental power in a terribly overcrowded section of Israel known as Gaza. As the Israeli government allows more and more new “settlements” to occupy what is considered Palestinian land, Hamas militants desperately fire rockets toward those settlements. The Israelis respond with overwhelmingly greater firepower, causing disproportionately far more damage and deaths in Gaza, and we go on imagining that the behavior of Hamas represents “the Palestinians.”

It is time for us in the U.S. to realize that the Palestinians have a variety of opinions about how to present themselves as a distinct national group in Israel and in the world. But they all struggle with diminished human rights and second-class citizenship as residents of Israel.

You’ve probably heard that in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations the Palestinians will not agree that Israel has a right to exist as a nation. I used to be convinced that this was wrong on the part of Palestinians and prevents progress in peace-making. But then it occurred to me that if I were a Palestinian negotiator, I would have this question: Which Israel should have a right to exist—the Israel with considerably smaller land area consigned to them in l948? The Israel with greatly expanded borders after 1967? The Israel with considerably greater expansion through the present settlements? Or an Israel of the future with little or no land area for the Palestinians? And, in a related issue, an Israel that is ethnically pure Jewish, with limited rights for non-Jews?

Before true negotiations can proceed, Palestinians need to know what they are agreeing to. With the increasing constriction of reliable Palestinian land, is it not understandable that some of the Palestinians protest with violence? Is it not understandable that fellow Arabs in the nations surrounding Israel are upset by this blatant injustice?

Much of my own ministry has been among Native Americans. Over 200 years of gradually encroaching settlements of various white groups coming to occupy the North American continent, these Native Americans also suffered irreparable losses including huge land areas once occupied by many different tribes in different regions; the gradual deaths of perhaps 20 million Native people from starvation, diseases, and war; and the destruction of their unique cultures.

The history of our treatment of the American Indians, with the encouragement of government leaders and military power, is shameful and suggests obvious parallels to what has transpired for Palestinians in Israel in the past 65 years.

So I appeal to Jewish Americans and to fellow Christians who support Israel’s development and who see it as fulfillment of Bible prophecy to take seriously what is happening in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The abuse of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government is likely to have more and more exposure not only to Americans but to the whole world. Palestinians should have equal rights as citizens of Israel or be allowed to develop a viable separate nation. The building of high walls topped with barbed wire, heavily armed checkpoints, expansion of settlements in Palestinian regions, and harsh responses to occasional expressions of desperate protest from Gaza threaten any “solutions” to existing tensions.

The achievements of Jewish people in the fields of medicine, psychology, and other sciences are well-publicized, and they are admired around the world. When will we see compassion for “brother Palestinians”? When will we see creative breakthroughs that replace the boiling tensions with constructive cooperation?

The world knows that the Israeli government, and, in a sense, the people of Israel, are very dependent on the U.S. Americans are seen by the people of the Middle East and many governments as co-responsible for Israeli government actions. How long, then, can we pretend that we are uninvolved, or that we can do nothing about it! Our representatives in Washington D.C. should be informed that we disapprove of the Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinians.

We are in a position to confess that in our history of dealing with ethnic and racial differences we have made some very serious mistakes, which we now regret, but also that we’re working on these issues and making some progress.
We can then invite our Israeli brothers to do this too.

Digging Deeper
“Israel & Palestine: A Very Short Introduction”—a six-minute film clip from Jewish Voices for Peace. jewishvoiceforpeace.org/content/israeli-palestinian-conflict-101

B’tselem—a reliable source for news about the occupied territories. btselem.org/English/

Films(available on Netflix or Amazon)
Little Town of Bethlehem
Five Broken Cameras

Books
Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel by Elias Chacour (Chosen Books)
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer by Phyllis Bennis; available for free download. endtheoccupation.org/section.php?id=52

About the Author

Don Klompeen is a retired CRC minister with added training for addiction and family counseling. He served Native Americans for 20 years of ministry and participates in outreach activity at Mill Creek Community Church near Seattle, Wash.

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Comments

It is heartening to read that there is some recognition that it is wrong to blindly support Israel. Many people of influence in the US government are dual citizens.......Israeli and American. The Jewish lobby in America is very powerful......and supported by most Christian churches. It would be wise to learn the difference between a Jew and a Zionist. Jesus called the Pharisees a den of vipers. In Revelation chapter 3......John writes that the people who claim to be Jews but are liars and are of the synagogue of Satan will be made to acknowledge Christ's love for us. Those of us goyim in the comfortable pew have long given up critical thinking. We do not heed Christ's warning that we live in a war zone.....with a very wily and cameleon like foe. The only weapon He gave us is Love........we would we wise to use it........every day.

Dear Editor,

I share Mr. Klompeen’s dismay with the loss of life of innocent Palestinians and Israelis.  The television imagery of the destruction is heart breaking.  

No doubt that Mr. Klompeen cares deeply about all people including native Americans and Palestinians. His compassion is commendable but his open hostility to the policies of the Israeli government shows a peculiar bias that I wish to take exception to.  I find his justification of such hostility to be most troubling.

From his Banner article, it appears the Mr. Klompeen believes that the fear that the Jews surely felt when observing Nazi military power is the same as the fear Palestinians must experience when observing Israeli military might.  Beyond the overly simplistic equivalency, the parallel just doesn’t live up to the imagery he wishes to use to persuade.  I can’t say with certainty what the average Palestinian finds fearful but I do know that the sounds, smells, and imagery of cattle trains, human ovens and dozer dug mass graves might elicit a much greater response than seeing a helicopter overhead.

If Mr. Klompeen wishes to draw parallels to World War II events, let me offer another.  I can just imagine the fear English folks felt from the screeching sound of a Nazi rocket loaded and launched to land indiscriminately on innocent English homes.  I too can empathize with the English response to burn German cities to embers.  Disproportionate?  Hardly.

Mr. Klompeen joins many others on the political left these days who quickly pull out the ‘Nazi’ card in order to persuade and intimidate. After all, how could you possibly support the position of someone who acts like the Nazi’s?  The ‘nazi’ canard is nearly always disproportionate and disingenuous.

Another troubling argument Mr. Klompeen makes would suggest that the lobbing of rockets to land indiscriminately on innocent Israelis is somehow understandable and legitimate because they are indeed aimed at Israelis who have settled on land acquired by Israel after the war in 1967.  Unfortunately, this is simply not true.  Hamas’s rockets are aimed to land anywhere in Israel and done so to cause the most civilian casualties possible.

Sadly, Mr. Klompeen contends that the Israeli response to it’s citizens dying from Hamas’s rockets is ‘disproportionate’.  I can only imagine that Mr. Klompeen would suggest that some UN committee decide what is proportionate and what is not.  Best to those who have to decide how many should die in retaliation for each rocket that hits an innocents house.  The media will be just too happy to keep score.

Finally, Mr. Klompeen’s attempt to add clarity and understanding as to why Hamas and the PLO refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist is, frankly, silly.  There is one Israel and because you and Hamas don’t agree with the policies of Israel, doesn’t make it not so.  Irrespective of the borders of 1948 or the borders of present, if the Palestinians wish to negotiate for a homeland, it would only make sense that they acknowledge that the one country that can make that happen indeed exists and may continue to exist. To refuse so is frankly illogical.  From Mr. Klompeen’s article, I’m left with the sense that he believes Israel should indeed cease to exists.

I enjoyed Mr. Klompeen’s opinions and appreciate his service to the CRC church.

Sincerely,


Ron Baron

Faith Alive CRC

Yakima, WA



Thank you, Mr. Klompeen, for this excellent piece. You speak to the heart of the current situation there. 

With Mr. Baron, I too was dismayed at the use of the Nazi analogy in this article.  Beyond that, I found the analysis simply lacking in an overall way.  The author emphathizes with Hamas/Palestinians by imagining their confusion when asked to recognize Israel as a state, not knowing which Israeli boundaries they are asked to recognize. If confusion exists, it is as to who represents the Palestinians.  Even the author doesn't seem to know.  The article says "we go on imagining that the behavior of Hamas represents 'the Palestinians,'" as if the Palestinians in the Gaza strip did not vote for Hamas in the numbers they did, taking power away from the one Palestinian leader who makes sense (Mahmoud Abbas), but whose leadership is consistently rejected by too many Palestians to become a consistent policy.

Certainly, not all actions of Hamas, including shooting the thousands of Iranian missiles into Israel, represent the actions of all Gazans, but the Gaza election results were either badly rigged or Gazans in fact voted for the policies and practices of Hamas.  Speaking of Iran, this article also fails to even touch on the broader causes and effects here, including the entwining among Hamas, the Iranians, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Israeli government represents, far and away, the most just and civil government structure in the middle east.  In comparison, it is arguable that the Palestinians are simply unable to form a government stable enough to even legitimately be called government.  When Gazans vote for Hamas, they are voting for something quite other than government.

This article supposes that many "... who support Israel’s development ... see it as fulfillment of Bible prophecy."  I certainly don't, and I don't think that underlies most of the support Irael receives from Americans.  What I think is that the Israeli form of government is the only option on the table for having a reasonably civil society in the middle east.  The closest second is Egypt perhaps and one doen't need to pay much attention to current events to realize what has been happening there of late.  I'd love to seen ''Mahmoud Abbas" thinking dominate the thinking in the Palestinian population, but it hasn't.  Instead and unfortunately, the critical mass of thinking among Palestinians favors Hamas style terrorism, Islamism, and the opportunity to wage Iranian proxy wars to wipe out those infidel Jews.

I believe Mr. VandeGriend"s comments also reflect the situation in the USA. People in Iraq, Iran, Afganistan, Latin America, Ukraine etc.....see Americans through the filters of CIA, NSA, FBI, the military and many other nefarious mercenary outfits. Most Americans are NOT power hungry blood hounds.......if only they could elect Dr. Ron Paul for president (bring the troops home).But it seems he is unelectable for the same reasons that are mentioned for Mr. Abbas. It seems people are people.....wherever they are.......all in need of the bridge called Jesus Christ. Be very careful of the "Kool Aid" that is widely dispensed.....and realize who is mixing it.

US Troops in Israel?  I suppose there may be advisors, maybe even a few "troops" but Ron Paul wouldn't be able to pull out many US troops from Israel because they aren't there to be pulled.

The words "US troops in Israel" do not appear anywhere in my note........ not on the lines .....or between them. 

Sorry, I drew the implication out of your saying "if only they [Americans who see through the filters of the CIA, etc] could elect Dr. Ron Paul for president (bring the troops home)." (underlined emphasis added).   Wasn't sure what other meaning to ascribe to that.

It is not the Americans who see through the filters of CIA, NSA and various mercenary groups. It is the people in the rest of the world looking at Americans. The internet gives us the ability to read non American viewpoints. Of couse Press TV (Iranian) and RT (Russian) CCTV (Chinese) all have their own slant as well.......it soon becomes apparent that our understanding of the facts is quite different from the realities expressed by people in other countries. I believe this is what the article tries to articulate, from personal experience.  A US general once observed that war is a racket........and he did not mean noise. It is a quest for peace that make both Mr. Abbas as well as Mr. Paul unelectable. Thank you for the exchange.

Dutchman Return's Holocaust Medal in Protest of Over Israel's Gaza Incursion  --  NY Times

"....But many other critics, like Mr. Zanoli, say their objection to Israeli policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the founding of a Jewish state.

“I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole,” Mr. Zanoli said in an interview Friday in his sparse but elegant apartment, adding that his decision was a statement “only against the state of Israel, not the Israeli people...."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/16/world/middleeast/henk-zanoli-israel-gaza-holocaust-ziadah.html?hpw&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpHedThumbWell&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

Greetings Rev. Klopmeen:

  I love justice. So do you. I think you have a bit more homework to do, however. Here is a snapshot of Andrew Bostom's review of Moshe Gil's seminal work on Jewish history before the Crusades. Read it and weep. 

Middle East scholars have lauded "A History of Palestine, 634-1099" as the most comprehensive historiography of Palestine from the initial Arab Muslim conquests, until the arrival of the Crusaders in 1099. Remarkably, despite the constraints of academic annotation, and the uncertainties of translation (i.e., from Hebrew to English), Professor Gil's narrative is eminently readable for the non-professional student of history. Through the clear, dispassionate presentation of a rich profusion of data, he captures the stark, unromantic reality of Muslim ruled Palestine during this 465-year period.
Professor Gil begins with a survey of events before the Arab Muslim invasion. He also notes the singular centrality that Palestine occupied in the mind of its pre-Islamic Jewish inhabitants, who referred to the land as "al-Sham". Indeed, as Gil observes, the sizable Jewish population in Palestine (who formed a majority of its inhabitants, when grouped with the Samaritans) at the dawn of the Arab Muslim conquest were "..the direct descendants of the generations of Jews who had lived there since the days of Joshua bin Nun, in other words for some 2000 years..". The 465-year period carefully surveyed by Gil comprises the following stages: the Arab Muslim conquest and establishment, from 634 to 661; the Umayyad-Damascene rule, from 661 until 750; the Abbasid-Baghdadian rule, from 750 through 878; Turco-Egyptian rule- Tulunids and Ikshidids- from 878 until 970- "interrupted" by Abbasid-Baghdadian rule again, between 905 and 930; nearly two generations of war including numerous participants, the dominant party being the Fatimids, from 970 through 1030; just over 40-years of Fatimid-Egyptian rule, between 1030 and 1071; and a generation of Turkish rule encompassing most of Palestine, from 1071 until 1099.
Gil offers a particularly revealing assessment of dhimmitude (i.e., the regulations imposed on the non-Muslims vanquished by jihad), and its adverse impact on these conquered, indigenous peoples, in chapter 3 pages, pages 139 to 161. For example, excessive, arbitrarily imposed taxation in the first quarter of the 11th century lead to the destitution, imprisonment, torture, and death of many Jews living in Jerusalem. However, the clearest outward manifestations of this imposed inferiority and humiliation were the prohibitions regarding dhimmi dress "codes", and the demands that distinguishing signs be placed on the entrances of dhimmi houses. During the Abbasid caliphates of Harun al-Rashid (786-809) and al-Mutawwakil (847-861), Jews and Christians were required to wear yellow ( as patches attached to their garments, or hats). Later, to differentiate further between Christians and Jews, the Christians were required to wear blue. Finally, in 850, consistent with Koranic verses and hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) associating them with Satan and Hell, al-Mutawwakil decreed that Jews and Christians attach wooden images of devils to the doors of their homes to distinguish them from the homes of Muslims.
Near the end of his extensive, scrupulously documented presentation, Gil offers this sobering assessment: "..These facts do not call for much interpretation; together they simply form a picture of almost unceasing insecurity, of endless rebellions and wars, of upheavals and instability..".

 

  What is the bottom line. Massacre after massacre, after humiliation after humiliation. By who?

Against who?

Food for thought.

Shalom

I am not a scholar of any accomplishment.......but I think I have the answer to your "bottom line" question. Human beings created by God have been killing human beings created by God since the beginning. It is Satan's lie that the killers feel justified......for a whole gambit of reasons. Jesus Christ taught us to love our Father God, our neighbors and our enemies. Sinners is the answer to your first question......and the Father of Jesus Christ is the answer to the "who" question.

Jesus Christ is the great equalizer that provides the only bridge between us (all people) and God. No one person or race is so special that they are exempted by this requirement. As  we bicker about how special we are......Satan laughs at our puffed up pride. Since the beginning his only purpose has been to separate us from our Creator. Jesus summation of the law to the learned Pharisee would not even fill a pamphlet......let alone a book. Thank God for Jesus Christ.....every day. 

 

I've been doing quite a bit of research on Israel/Palestine, and this article did not set well for a number of reasons... I do believe Israel has a biblical calling to welcome the "strangers" and "aliens", which includes the Palestinians...  and I recognize certain groups within Israel have treated the palestinians horribly...  and I recognize, that there is much, much more to what is going on, with numerous false media representations to make Israel look bad... and I understand, it's all very complex...

the main issue i have with this article, is the anti semitic tone this article takes...  I wrestled with if it was just my perspective, but when i read this definition from the US department of justice, I believe it confirmed what I sensed in my reading of this article...

here is some examples from the US DOJ website:

BOQ

What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?

EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:

DEMONIZE ISRAEL:

Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
  • Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

  • Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. EOQ

So, I perceived more than one of these examples used in this article...  and I believe some of the other comments have addressed some of them as well...  One I will further address is this statement:   BOQ The Israeli's respond with overwhelmingly greater firepower, causing disproportionately far more damage and deaths in Gaza...EOQ... i won't get into the number of deaths, as that has been distorted through the media multiple times... I'm not minimizing the actual deaths, just saying that there often is more to the story (or less, as in # of deaths, depending on other reports, including from UN investigations, that receive little attention because they are way after the initial "outrage" caused by inaccurate reports to make Israel look bad)

but the statement made here is a double standard... i believe the US do the same if for example, terrorists in Mexico had been launching 12,000 rockets into our country over 4 or so years, aimed at our schools and civic centers and any other place that includes civilians?   Would we not defend our country, with our "overwhelming fire power" against the terrorists in Mexico or Cuba, or whichever "poor" nation that is attacking us?

I was very disappointed in the tone of this article, again, not saying we shouldn't care for the Palestinian people, but let's be more careful in the future not to do so by "demonizing" Israel.

friendly amendment to my prior comment long, long ago!  had a delightful, Divinely orchestrated discussion today with Brother Don...   we ended up sitting next to each other at classis PNW, and when he found out my name, he mentioned my comment to his article here...   I said we could talk about it if he would like...  so from our discussion today, I want to be clear that I am not saying Don is anti-semitic, and I am more than happy to say that and that I am glad to hear that he is praying for the salvation of the Jews/Israel (descendants of Jacob).   He is coming from a political angle (Israeli gov't), I am coming from a spiritual angle (Jews/descendants of Jacob)...  and we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, whatever God intended with that passage!

I also added that maybe we need to look into ways to material bless both people groups, our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and also the Jews per Romans 15:27  They (saints/God's holy people) were pleased to do it (contribute to poor saints in Jerusalem).  For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they (Gentiles) owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  I believe we are called to support both the Palestinian Christians and the Jews through prayer as well as materially...  let's not exclude either one!  Because maybe if we/CRC more intentionally pray for the salvation of Israel (people) on a spiritual level then maybe their gov't response would be better  in the natural...

so Don, thanks for the conversation today...

 

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