As I sit down to write this post, Israel has been at war for 25 days. I think we all know why. Israel, as a sovereign nation, had to respond to atrocities committed by Hamas against our nation. I find it hard to believe that more than three weeks have passed since I wrote to you when the war first broke out. It has gone by in a blur.
In many ways, I’m numb inside
I have to be honest, I’ve reached a point of numbness inside. The more news I read, the more discussions I hear at work, or comments from others around me, the more posts I skim through, and the more videos with titles that immediately warn me not to watch them, the more disturbed I am in the inner man. I have friends, Jewish and Arab friends, colleagues, and brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of my friends have friends or family in the West Bank, and contacts with believers living in Gaza.
The more I learn, the more disturbed I become. I do not see how anyone can come out of this war a winner. I only see death and incomprehensible grief – in Israel and in Gaza.
I see a polarization of sides, and tragically, I am sensing this polarization even among believers in Yeshua (Jesus). If I question the morality of how Israel is fighting this war, not a few of my believing friends are shocked. So, I keep silent for the most part and offer a word of encouragement where I can.
I don’t want to question the attitudes and beliefs I’ve held regarding Modern Israel. It’s easier not to. It’s easier not to think, not to feel, just to swallow the party line – it’s us against them.
A different perspective didn’t come overnight
I hate talking politics, particularly when it comes to issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And being a Zionist at heart when I first came to Israel, you can imagine the heated arguments I had with a Christian Arab girl who is still one of my closest friends. She and her family introduced me to a different way of thinking.
Then, many years ago, I set out to prove, biblically, that the Arab peoples had no place or right to live in Israel. However, the Bible proved me wrong – yet again. I had discovered and seriously pondered passages such as Isaiah 19:19–25. In other passages I noted the Law of Moses allowed for non-Jews to live in the land under specific conditions – conditions that modern-day Israel never offered the Arab population here. I asked a respected Bible teacher, Cryil Hocking (who is now with the Lord), why has no one taught me things? He told me, “Because no one wants to hear.”
Since then, I’ve wondered a lot about the selective way the Law of Moses is observed in Israel, and over the years I’ve seen non-Jewish people treated with increasingly less respect. But I still resisted believing what I was hearing from all too many Jewish and Arab sources – that the history of modern-day Israel is not as cut and dried as we want to believe. A book, a movie, and a memory have changed my perspective.
The book – Apeirogon
A friend of mind recommended the book Apeirogon. Colum McCann, the author, uniquely crafts two true stories with the aim of showing another way to approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The stories are based drawn from interviews with an Arab man and a Jewish Israeli man – both of whom lost their daughters to terrorism. The Arab man’s daughter was killed by IDF soldiers and the Jewish man’s daughter was killed by a terrorist in Jerusalem. The story follows their vastly different lives and the relationship that develops between the two fathers. The book challenged me. If people with no faith or influence from Yeshua could have compassion for and seek the good of the “other” what about me?
About a year ago I watched a documentary at the Israeli Film Festival in Haifa: 1341 Frames of Love and War. This thought-provoking movie tells the story of Israel’s most recognized war photographer, Micha Bar-Am. It is a deeply moving look at his photography, memories, and personal cost of devoting one’s life to recording Israel’s conflicts. The photography is not pretty, and some of it has only recently been uncensored. I watched the documentary twice, and will never forget what I saw, particularly regarding documented events in Israel’s early history. The cliche is true: one picture is worth a thousand words.
For more information you can visit this site: https://www.ran-tal.com/1341-frames-of-love-and-war.
Many years ago, I visited a Messianic family that lived in a West Bank Settlement. I met my friend’s husband as he headed outside for his shift of guard duty at the gates of the settlement. He was heavily armed. I asked him, “Why are you carrying that huge rifle?”
His answer was cryptic as he walked out the door, “The only good Arab is a dead Arab.”
To this day, what shocks me most about his statement is not what he said, but that he clearly meant it, and claimed to be a believer in Yeshua.
God has used this memory, along with what I learned from Apeirogon and the documentary to ask some hard questions.
The Tension of Multiple Rights
There is a popular Jewish story about a Rabbi who was asked to mediate between two accusing parties. After listening carefully to the accuser, he responded, “You are right.” The defense next spoke up. After closing his case, the Rabbi responded, “You are right.” Everyone became confused and turned to the Rabbi, “But Rabbi, they can’t both be right!”
The Rabbi was silent for a while, and finally responded, “You are right!”
My mother used to say something similar, but more direct. “There are times in a disagreement when both sides are right and both sides are wrong. It is what they are doing with their rights that’s wrong.”
I have thought a lot about all of this, and to be honest, I’m a bit nervous about sharing what I really think with you. So, I want to clarify a few things before I continue.
I believe that the actions of Hamas on October 7, 2023, were nothing less than evil. Their hatred and actions reflect the inspiration of the enemy of our souls. Their state of mind as they committed these deeds, and indeed their thinking behind the videos and propaganda they continue to publish are horrific to imagine.
I also believe that Israel has a sovereign right to defend herself. I am not questioning that, nor do I minimize the sacrifices that have been made and will be made so that I can have a good life. I realize I have taken these sacrifices for granted – particularly here in Israel. Furthermore, I support all efforts to get all of the hostages out of Gaza. My heart is breaking for those in captivity and for the losses experienced throughout the land.
My struggle is not with these issues. Nor is my struggle with the decisions made by leaders who make no claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit. In fact, if you do not believe in Yeshua, the rest of what I will share is not directed to you at all. My struggle is with my heart. What should my attitude be toward this war, toward Gaza, toward the Palestinians, toward Hamas, and toward the pride I see here in Israel as our leaders call for the decimation of Hamas in Gaza? Is the “decimation” of Hamas really going to ensure Israel’s safety? Destroying the people who comprise Hamas will not destroy the powers of darkness influencing and controlling them.
Some people might well ask, “Dvora, why are you struggling?” For them the answer is obvious – God sets His face against all wickedness, God has promised Israel to the Jewish people, prophecies are being fulfilled. We don’t need to feel bad for the so-called “innocent.” This is a just war and God is on our side.
For me though, as a believer in Yeshua, the answer is not so obvious. My spirit keeps asking, where is Yeshua in our response to this war, where is the Gospel?
Is there room for the Gospel in this war?
I think back to my friend’s husband. His words still ring in my mind more than 20 years later: the only good Arab is a dead Arab. I can accept some saying this – if they are not believers in Yeshua. I can’t agree, but I cannot expect a different attitude from someone who has not yet experienced the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of the Son of God who died for us all. However, there is something seriously wrong if the person saying this also claims to be a disciple of Yeshua, who told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Right now, I’m living in a nation experiencing inconsolable pain and unsatisfied anger that cries out for justice. I am not surprised by my country’s response. I do understand it. To be honest, in my flesh, I’m on the “decimate Hamas” side. But what cost will our retaliation exact? How many more of our sons, daughters, husbands, and wives will die? In light of our loss, are the lives of mostly innocent civilians on the other side really justifiable? The people in Gaza already have no future… what will be left for them when the dust clears the air and all that remains is rubble?
Where are our tears for the “other”? Where is our cry to God to bring both Israel and Gaza to repentance? Where is our cry for God to arise and for HIM to shatter the powers of darkness that have been unleashed here and worldwide? Where are our heartfelt prayers for the salvation of our own AND the “other”? Where are hearts of mercy breaking at the loss of lives? Yes, our hearts should and do break for our own, our friends and family sent to the front lines, praying desperately for our loved ones to return to us alive. But what about the “other”?
What if there is a Hamas murderer that God wants to reach with the gospel of Yeshua? What if there is a Palestinian Muslem family who might turn to Yeshua and be saved? The Gospel of love can’t reach the dead.
As I wrestled with these issues, I was reminded of Joshua and his encounter with the commander of God’s army.
Joshua learned, can we?
Joshua was preparing for the battle against Jericho. God had made it clear this was a battle Israel had to fight, and they would win. Just before the battle, as Joshua was standing near Jericho – perhaps checking out the terrain – he saw an armed man. I have been deeply convicted by the conversation between them.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15
The commander of the army of the Lord was not for the Israelites, and he was not for Israel’s “adversaries.” Rather, he fought by the guidance and will of the Lord God, the creator of the universe, the God of Israel – and of anyone else who placed their faith in Him.
How thankful I am that this commander gave Joshua his fighting instructions. Otherwise, Rahab and all who were with her might not have been spared.
I hope and pray that the commander of God’s army is currently overruling all that is happening.
I have said it before, and I have to keep reminding myself – this is an all too real spiritual battle being fought in the flesh. Right now, more than a strong victory, Israel needs a spirit of repentance to fall upon this land. This land, my land, is riddled with immorality, corruption, social injustice, and bigotry. We cannot cry out for God’s blessings on our terms. All we can do is cry out to our Lord for mercy. Mercy for our children and husbands being sent to the front lines, mercy for all of our soldiers, mercy for our people, and mercy for our enemy.
Dare we also pray for a similar spirit of repentance to fall upon Gaza and even upon Hamas. Can terrorists repent? I hope so. I can think of nothing worse than to have committed horrible atrocities in the hope of heaven, only to awaken in hell. Lord, have mercy and open the eyes of the perpetrators of evil – deliver them from the influence of the powers of hell.
Please pray for all of us in Israel and Gaza, and in particular the Body of Messiah in Israel and in Gaza – both of whom have already lost loved ones in this conflict; and all groups who are polarizing around issues, instead of around the throne of Grace.
Pray that the eyes of all the peoples would be opened to see God’s salvation, that He has prepared in the presence of all peoples, Yeshua the Messiah, “a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to [His] people Israel” (from Luke 2:29-32).
Lord Yeshua, have mercy on us all. Amen.
About the featured image: Ferdinand Bol (Dutch, 1616–1680) The Messenger of God Appearing to Joshua, about 1640. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2020.4.2. Public Domain.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Is it Us or Them? Seeking a Christian Perspective in Wartime.