The Christian church in the Holy Land is made up mostly of Palestinian Christians who have kept the faith since the days of the early church. But our brothers and sisters there are suffering.
This summer I traveled to the Holy Land with a study group of 15 people from Christian Reformed Church agencies and churches and one from the Reformed Church in America to listen and learn about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Our goal was to assess whether the CRC should become more active in the work of peace and justice in the Middle East, with particular attention to possible partnerships with Palestinian and/or Israeli Christian groups.
We received our first introduction to the conflict shortly after we landed at the Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, when a member of our group who is Palestinian-American was detained by Israeli security for over four hours.
During our 10-day visit, we encountered a variety of Christian organizations working toward peace, justice, and reconciliation. Two such organizations were Sabeel (which in Arabic means “the way”) and Musalaha (“reconciliation”), both with offices in Jerusalem.
We also contacted other non-profit organizations working toward peace. The Holy Land Trust, based in Bethlehem, plays an active role in nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation, as well as in educating others on the conflict. B’tSelem (a Hebrew word meaning “in the image of”) and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) both are Jewish organizations advocating for the human rights of Palestinians.
We learned that signs of the conflict have different meanings, depending on whom you ask. “The Wall,” started in the summer of 2002, is called either “the apartheid wall” or “the security wall.” Armed Israeli checkpoints throughout the West Bank and Gaza are either “a form of harassment and humiliation” or “necessary for security.”
The Christians we met have a real desire to keep the gospel alive in the Holy Land. Pray that our Palestinian and Jewish brothers and sisters will serve as instruments for peace, justice, and reconciliation and that we in the CRC will do our part with them in this effort.