The first time I ever heard about the conflict between Israel and Palestine was in the early 90’s, when I was in high school. I had read an article in Seventeen where two young women -one Israeli, the other Palestinian- were interviewed about the true nature of the conflict. Both of them wished for peace. Both of them did not wish harm on the other country’s citizens. Both of them felt that things had gotten wildly out of control, and that a peaceful solution could be reached. Yet both described the core dispute as one over land, land they each claimed their people had a God-given right to.
Looks like nothing’s changed in over 20 years, unfortunately.
Soon after reading that article I converted to Christianity. Christians tend to side with the Israeli’s, who are predominantly Jewish (there are Muslim and Christian Israelis, too). Christians, having adopted the Torah into their Bible as the Old Testament, still believe that the Jews are God’s chosen and that Palestine etc is the promised land God charged Moses with leading His people to. I was too young to care to understand the complexities of history and politics, so I followed the party line. Not passionately, but the belief stucture made enough sense for me not to think about questioning it.
After becoming Muslim, I realized that those Philistines mentioned in the Bible are the ancestors of modern day Palestinians. The same Philistines the Jews often killed and fought repeatedly in the Old Testament (usually at “God’s command”) were still being fought…but was God truly commanding it? It seemed like the biggest flaw from what I remember reading was that those ancient Philistines were of the ‘uncircumcised’, and practiced idolatry. Modern day Philistines are majority Muslim, which makes them both circumcized and anti-idolatry. Seems like a significant enough change to end the bloodshed, I would think.
The thing is, I don’t let the religion I’m practicing (then Christianity, now Islam) tell me what to believe about God. I have an innate understanding and belief about Him, and I follow the faith that aligns most with what I already know of Him. This is what I know: Even if God did promise a particular plot of land to a particular group, He would also most likely tell them to share with those who wanted to live among them, to live peacefully with surrounding groups, and not to fight with another people unless there was a serious need for it. He would command tolerance and compassion, not violence and hate.
Even though I became muslim over a decade ago, I didn’t become a “jew hater”. A lot of muslims unfortunately have a disdain for Jews because of Israeli oppression and divergent theology. I never adopted that. In fact, I have several friends who are Jewish, some more “practicing” than others. They don’t shun me for being Muslim. Our friendship supercedes that. We can get along despite our differences. And I think I can safely say that they are just as horrified at the crimes against humanity as I am, or as any humanist would be. None of us want conflict, bloodshed, or tyranny. All of us believe in finding a peaceful solution that works for all (and they do exist).
What is not being highlighted is the fact that what REALLY is going on has nothing to do with land, beliefs, God, ethnicity, religion, or even politics. What we are seeing is really an attack on the human race by forces we don’t see, and often forget. Our war is not against one another, but against a common enemy. He might be chained during this month of Ramadan, but he is clever enough to create enough discord among men to sabotage the strength we might have against his forces. We are all victims and vulnerable in this regard, and that’s why it’s so important we find a way to unite on our common human ground and realize the nature of this reality, this world, who we share it with, and what our true purpose is. If there is a way to remember Who is our Lord, the one we ALL promised ourselves to, then we can begin restoring our innate purpose and potential. Then we can end these mortal tragedies.