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Reflection – Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

I am not long back from a tour of Israel. I last went in 1988. The country has developed massively in that time but the politics remain complex. With a population of 8 million, contradictions and conundrums appear at every turn. Instinctively, as a Christian, I want to love Israel but they themselves make this far from easy. The national character is likened to the ‘sabre’, or prickly pear. The visit left me saddened, and with a deep disquiet of whether the present situation can ever truly be resolved. How can such divided peoples live side-by-side, even if a two state solution were to prove possible?

Jerusalem from Mount Scopus

Whilst there I read through Psalms 120-134, ‘The Songs of Ascent’; songs sung by the Jews travelling up to Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 exhorts us to ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’. Peace is never more needed than it is today. Hostilities and injustice abound across Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Even the Christian denominations add to the sense of tension. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a travesty of all that the gospels teach. Discord and disharmony lie at the centre of one of the most important Christian sites on earth!

A visit to the Holy Land is far from straightforward. It throws up thorny issues of land ownership, disputed borders and national security; concepts which in the UK we are rarely forced to consider. We Brits have our own issues to face as our history from the Mandate period has left bitter memories in Israel. I fully support Israel’s right to exist, but how does its antagonistic policies toward the Palestinians sit with the scriptural injunction to take care of the stranger and neighbour?

There are no simple answers. The situation would appear intractable. What we can and must do, however, is to continue to ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’; an anguished city over which Jesus himself wept.

This reflection was published in Together Magazine (May to June 2014).

  1. May 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    “important Christian sites” seems a contradiction in terms. When I went to Israel I was unimpressed and largely uninterested in the Christian sites. I wanted to walk through Gehenna, get a feel of the geography and add see Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. But seeing a shrine where Jesus gave his famous sermon saddened me. A blade of grass would have been more fitting. We no longer worship in Jerusalem and the earth is God’s foot stool.

    Israel’s troubles are no longer biblical, they are common to man. Injustice and division speak a universal language we all understand. What really saddens me is the way Christians have taken sides and behave like the OT false prophets who denied the truth, demanding God’s favour. Friends of Israel are those who will pray for genuine peace, not the silencing of the oppressed. The Zionists hold on to dubious interpretations of prophesy while refusing to listen to truth or the heart of God they claim to know – a God who opposes the proud and defends the weak without prejudice.

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