Soldiers carrying rifles. (Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri from Pexels)
In early October 2023, Hamas initiated an unexpected offensive within Israel’s borders, launching the attack from the Palestinian territory of Gaza. In a tragic turn of events, the actions of Hamas fighters resulted in the loss of more than 1,200 lives. Those affected were innocent women and children, while over 150 were taken as hostages.
After the recent attack, Israel responded with airstrikes. They claimed to target Hamas facilities in Gaza. According to officials in the Palestinian-administered area, the conflict resulted in losing over 1,000 lives, including children, and thousands of injuries on both sides.
The present-day conflict between Jewish and Palestinian communities originates in the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael. This episode of violence is just one chapter in an enduring conflict between Israelis and Hamas militants. The roots of these clashes can be traced back to events described in biblical narratives.
What started the Israel – Hamas conflict?
In August 1988, Hamas released its Charter, explicitly positioning itself as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The group articulated its aspiration to establish “an Islamic state across the entirety of Palestine.”
Hamas is a Palestinian militant faction and political party identifying as a Palestinian Islamist organization. Most of its members practice Islam, and its principles are based on Islamic teachings.
Established in 1987 during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising), Hamas has played a significant and ongoing role in Palestinian politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, it’s important to note that not all Muslims support or associate with Hamas.
The Promised Land
The contemporary conflict between Israelis and Palestinians primarily stems from a territorial dispute over the land that now encompasses Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. This region holds immense significance for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam followers as it includes holy sites integral to their respective faiths.
During the time believed to be when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Roman Empire held control over this territory historically. As Rome’s ally, King Herod passed away, and the land was divided into five districts administered locally under Roman authority.
In the past, the land came under Ottoman Empire rule for around four centuries until the end of World War I. Afterward, the United Kingdom took control of the area known as Palestine and expressed its support for establishing a national home for Jewish people there.
In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a monumental resolution. This historic decision resulted in the division of British-ruled Palestine into two separate states. One was designated for Jewish inhabitants, while the other catered to the Arab population. Additionally, Jerusalem was assigned as an international city under UN administration. On May 14, 1948, the modern State of Israel was officially established. This momentous occasion provided a homeland for Jewish individuals who sought refuge from persecution and oppression.
The UN plan, intended to resolve the conflict, faced rejection from Arab nations. They viewed it as unjust and violating the UN Charter. This refusal sparked a devastating war that resulted in approximately 700,000 Palestinians being uprooted and forced to flee. They accounted for half of the Arab population in Palestine. Many sought refuge in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and areas including Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
Israel argued it had no intentional motive for displacing Palestinians from their homes. They asserted that five Arab states attacked them on the very day of their establishment. The hostilities ceased with armistice agreements in 1949, but no official peace treaty was reached.
For Palestinians, the creation of Israel represents the “Nakba” in Arabic. It signifies a catastrophe and a profound tragedy that led to mass displacement, thwarting their aspirations for statehood.
The Biblical roots of the conflict: the legacy of Isaac and Ishmael
The descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, namely the Jews and the Arabs, share a complex history of peaceful and tumultuous interactions. In the contemporary landscape of religious diversity, adherents often underscore the commonalities shared by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. These three faiths are collectively known as “Abrahamic.”
Both Jews and Christians can trace their lineage back to Abraham’s son, Isaac. In contrast, Muslims trace their heritage to Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. Islam embraces and incorporates moral and ethical teachings from figures like Moses and Jesus within this framework. It makes principles such as honesty, dignity, decency, and equality integral to the message of the Prophet Muhammad.
Despite these shared elements, profound disparities exist among Islamic, Jewish, and Christian doctrines when addressing fundamental concepts. These differences become most apparent when considering matters like the nature of God, the course of spiritual history, and the roles of Jesus and Paul.
Isaac’s significance: The covenant of promise
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:17-18
Isaac, the child of the promise, was born to Sarah, Abraham’s wife when she was well beyond her childbearing years. His birth was miraculous, a testament to God’s divine intervention. In contrast, Ishmael was born to Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, due to Sarah’s initial inability to conceive. This event marked the beginning of a more complex family dynamic.
Isaac’s significance lies in the covenant God made with him, a cornerstone of the Jewish and Christian faiths. This divine covenant, as detailed in the book of Genesis, promises a great nation to descend from Isaac’s lineage. The land of Canaan is also granted as an everlasting possession to his descendants.
The legacy of Ishmael
“The angel of the Lord also said to her [Hagar]: I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. The angel of the Lord said to her: You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” – Genesis 16:10-12
Ishmael’s narrative, as portrayed in the Quran, offers a distinct viewpoint on his enduring impact. From his upbringing amidst untamed wilderness, one can discern a life fraught with hardship and uncertainty. The Quran reveres Ishmael as a prophet bestowed with divine blessings to sire a remarkable lineage. Regarded as the progenitors of the Arab people, his descendants embody resilience and resourcefulness. This notion was exemplified through their transformative journey within the desert realms of Paran.
In Islamic tradition, Ishmael holds a significant role as one of the ancestors of the Muslims. According to Islamic belief, Ishmael was the eldest son of the Prophet Ibrahim (known as Abraham in Judeo-Christian tradition) and his wife Hagar.
Muslims believe that God chose Ishmael and his mother for a particular purpose. They made him an ancestor of the Arab people and one of the forefathers of the Muslim community. These beliefs are rooted in Islamic texts, notably the Quran and Hadith (the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad).
The Promised Land
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.” – Exodus 23:31
The Promised Land originates in the Bible, which designates a specific territory God established for His chosen people as an integral part of their heritage. These promised borders encompass a geographical area that spans parts of contemporary Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon and stretches into portions of Jordan and Syria.
A territorial dispute
The Holy or Promised Land, which includes the city of Jerusalem, holds sacred importance for all three Abrahamic faiths. It is a place of pilgrimage, worship, and deep historical connections for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Both Jews and Muslims hold Jerusalem in reverence due to its significance that housed the revered Temple Mount. This paramount site encompasses sacred sites such as the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and more.
Recent conflicts have primarily revolved around the question of control over the following regions:
- Gaza Strip: A piece of land situated between Egypt and present-day Israel.
- Golan Heights: A rocky plateau located between Syria and contemporary Israel.
- West Bank: A territory that demarcates part of modern Israel and Jordan.
The Abrahamic Covenant: Blessings and curses
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:3
Genesis 12:3 is a profound biblical verse with enduring implications for the ongoing conflicts between Israel and its adversaries. This passage, which promises blessings to Israel’s supporters and curses to its opponents, serves as an enduring moral compass for contemporary and future generations.
Blessings and curses have been consistently applied to those who support or oppose Israel. For instance, the United States is a compelling example of God’s bestowed blessings due to its historical support of Israel. On the other hand, countries opposing Israel have often experienced societal upheaval and economic turmoil.
In the contemporary world, the persistent tensions in the Middle East between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael remain a global concern.
Moreover, the covenant between Abraham and the Jewish people is a sacred commitment, unalterable by any individual or nation. God exclusively pledged the Promised Land to Israel, not to any other country. Wars may come and go, but the Word of God always prevails. Ultimately, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can unite all the world’s people in peace and righteousness.
The Bible is a beacon of hope, conveying a message of reconciliation, understanding, and collaboration. It inspires a vision of a world where nations can set aside their differences to fulfill the divine promise of blessings for all families on Earth. While the struggles between Israel and its adversaries may endure, the Gospel reminds us of the potential for unity, peace, and global harmony.
More from Crossmap: War in Israel: A Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy?
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about The legacy of Isaac and Ishmael: Israel’s turbulent and sacred path.