For a number of years I’ve been part of a group focused on Justice in Israel and Palestine. Recent weeks, along with a newly formed Israel government which includes ultra right leaders, have exasperated an already difficult situation. Tensions have risen. Seven people died during an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, which was preceded by an Israeli attack in Jenin, a Palestinian village, that left nine dead.
In the past year, 150 Palestinian Citizens in the West bank have died including Palestinian American journalist, Shireen-Abu-Akleh shot by an Israeli sniper, and Seventy-eight year old Palestinian American Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, who was detained at a pop-up check point on his way home after playing cards with friends. Some events have no logic and no defense.
Israel requires mandatory military service for everyone over the age of 18. Frequently, that means immature eighteen year old’s, are given the power of life or death over young Palestinians. It is a terrible situation to put anyone in.
The occupation of Palestine has been devastating for the Palestinian people. Most farm families grow crops of fruit, nuts and olives. The Israeli military knocks down century old olive trees, claiming they are planted on lands which the farmers don’t own.
Over the years our group has followed one such Palestinian farmer, who since 1991, has been trying to prove his right of ownership in Israeli courts. The land they live on has been in the family for centuries and was formally documented during the Ottoman Empire, recognizing their ownership. In spite of that evidence, the Israeli military has periodically bulldozed some of their trees. At other times, nearby Jewish settlers have damaged their farm, wanting the land for themselves.
The saga this family has lived through has been a constant struggle. They are members of a Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Their deep Christian faith continues to give them strength as they work, not only to save their land, but for peace. Along the way they have been forced to submit and resubmit their proof of ownership, multiple times, as their case has worked its way in the court system. Meanwhile, they are unable (along with the rest of Bethlehem) to acquire permits to dig wells, set up rain barrels to collect water, or build on their land. While Israel refuses to grant permits, building without a required permit, allows the Israeli military to destroy a building or even rain barrels.
Last week there were 450 coordinated attacks on Palestinian farmers in the West Bank by Israeli settlers, emboldened by Israeli’s new National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
One of the difficulties our advocacy faces, is there are some who call any criticism of Israel antisemitism. The dangerous spread of antisemitism, in our nation and around the world, makes us cautious. Yet, even as our nation has policies which demand accountability, so do policies of Israel which dehumanize the Palestinian people.
I wish there were easy answers to this long running conflict, where ordinary citizens of Israel and of Palestine only want to live in peace and safety. I pray for a Just and lasting peace in the Holy Land. And I pray for our Palestinian friends, that when their case reaches Israeli’s Supreme Court once again, that justice is done for this family.
“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'” Zechariah 7:9