In the recent weeks, Israel once again dominated global headlines as tensions and violence escalated across the nation and in Gaza. The spirit of fear and hatred has been rampant not just in Israel, but across the world. This conflict is not new, but just as arms become more advanced, the online remarks become more vicious.
Many people are still hurting across our region, suffering trauma, severe damage and loss of precious life. How should we talk to our colleagues, church friends and family members about this complicated matter? To properly engage, we should stay informed. But more importantly, we need to grow in how we represent the Kingdom of God.
What Happened in Israel and Gaza?
In May, tensions have steadily escalated in cities throughout Israel. This year, Jerusalem Day, a holiday commemorating Israeli reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War, coincided with the end of Ramadan. This holiest month in the Islamic year encourages religious zeal, which can reach fever-pitch, as does verbal vitriol from Islamic leaders.
Riots and clashes broke out between protesters and Israeli security in East Jerusalem. Jerusalem Day rallies intensified the tensions. Protesters on the Temple Mount threw rocks onto Jews praying at the Western Wall. It culminated with an outbreak of violence on the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount
Any Israeli security intervention on the Temple Mount has the tendency to provoke global tension. The “status quo” of Jerusalem and the sanctity of Al Aksa mosque were perceived to be threatened. Whether premeditated or in response to the violence, Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, responded by launching more than 4000 rockets into Israel.
As we read the headlines,it’s very important to distinguish between the Islamic Jihadist organization of Hamas and the Palestinian people. Many Palestinians are trapped and live as victims of Hamas’ oppressive regime in Gaza.
Contributing Factors to the Escalation
Several contributing factors may have led up to and further stoked the recent round of violence.
The Sheikh Jarrah court case, now postponed, is a long-standing court battle over a property. A Jewish landlord intends to evict Arab tenants from several homes in a predominately Muslim area in East Jerusalem. This battle over the legality and possession of property in East Jerusalem touches on a very charged issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli and Palestinian Society
The economic and societal stress throughout Israeli and Palestinian society has added fuel to the fire after over a year of lockdowns. Job losses, quarantine and challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has worn everyone out.
To make matters worse, the Israeli government was in stalemate. It emphasized a wearying lack of unity after 4 rounds of elections without a lasting coalition. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas (PA) cancelled Palestinian Authority elections,the first to be slated in 16 years. This in turn is a factor which highlights the growing despair and weariness many Palestinians feel.
Operation Guardian of the Walls / “Sword of Jerusalem”
Israel responded by successfully targeting Hamas terror targets across Gaza. This included weapons bunkers & depots, networks of tunnels, rocket-launchers, and militant intel offices. Israel did everything possible to preserve life. Meanwhile, Hamas put their own civilians in harm’s way by firing rockets from schools, hospitals, and residential areas.
The innovative technology of the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile defense system, has intercepted rockets from Gaza at a 90% success rate. Nevertheless, despite the Iron Dome’s success, Hamas rockets have caused significant damage. They have cost many lives both in Israel and Gaza.
Global leaders and mediators have worked hard to broker a tenuous cease-fire. Nevertheless, the damages from the round of fighting is severe and will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects in many areas.
Explosion of Violence
The hostilities in the air worsened the situation on the ground. Reports circulated of lynches by radical mobs, synagogue burnings, vandalism, and car rammings. Deep unrest took over “mixed” Jewish-Arab cities within Israel.
Many believe that the internal violence was undoing decades of peace efforts within Israel. It created an internal rift in the fabric of society that Israel has not witnessed for many years. Many Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza have been severely affected.
War is never something to be celebrated, and we grieve with the loss of civilian lives on both sides.
In the midst of this, we know that as believers we’ve been entrusted with the message of reconciliation that can only come through the name of Yeshua. We believe that God is calling us to be His hands and feet. We can bring Hope & Healing to those who are suffering and in the greatest need during this time.
Finding a Balanced Biblical Response
Many have reached out to ask, “How do we respond? How do we talk to our churches, workplaces and families about the current crisis?”
We can encourage a balanced biblical response to the current conflict. It can be all too easy to veer to extremes when approaching this subject. But as we humbly seek the Lord and pray that He will give us courage and wisdom to respond in love.
Perhaps some of the following points can help us formulate a balanced biblical response to how to talk about this crisis:
- Recognize the True Nature of the Conflict
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
We know that the core of this conflict goes much deeper than the status of current events. This is first and foremost a spiritual battle foreshadowed from the beginning of time (Gen 3:15). We must look beyond the natural to how the Lord would have us pray and partner with Him in the Spiritual realm (2 Cor 5:16; Psa 121).
Understanding natural factors is important. But ultimately, we must always choose God’s higher ways and thoughts (2 Cor 10:3-6; Is 55:8-9). The enemy of our souls seeks to steal, kill and destroy. There are significant spiritual forces operating behind the natural conflict. We must wait on the Lord and listen for His divine strategies through prayer.
- Get Caught up in the Kingdom Narrative
And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. Ezekiel 36:23
Media depictions, personal bias and distinct narratives can pressure us to lend allegiance to one “side”. Especially when devoid of a redeemed Kingdom perspective. Offenses abound when we perceive any scenario from a worldly perspective (Prov 18:19; 2 Cor 5:16).
God has enduring covenant promises for His beloved Israel that He WILL fulfill. For His very name and nature are staked on those promises. He also has a perfect heart of love and plans for the Palestinian people.
We must leave room for deep compassion to empathize with many throughout this region. But we must guard our hearts from offense and choose to love and
pray for even our enemies (Matt 5:44). Remember, in order to love and support Israel, we don’t have to be against the Palestinians. And in order to love Palestinians we don’t have to be against Israel.
- Focus on the True Pathway to Peace
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall… that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16
The prophet Zechariah tells us that in the last days Jerusalem will be a “cup of staggering” and a “heavy stone for the nations” (Zech 12:2-3). Psalm 83 speaks of a day when the nations will conspire with one accord to wipe out Israel as a nation. As we approach the end of days, the battle over God’s covenant purposes for Israel will continue to foment.
It will ultimately culminate in the final battle and the Lord’s return. Seasons of natural peace may come and go, but true and lasting peace can only come through the Prince of Peace. He is the King of Israel who conquered the true enemy of sin and death forever. The Messiah longs to rule and reign in the hearts of all humanity – for whom He gave His very life.
Thus, our hearts must be positioned to help further the witness of Yeshua among both Jews and Arabs, both in Israel and Gaza. One of the best ways we can do this is by coming alongside to pray for and support local ministries. Stand with local believers who are proclaiming the gospel of peace.
- Stand with Local Believers
Stand with the Body of Yeshua in Israel to lift up their arms and encourage Jewish and Arab believers in this region. There are already movements of deep healing and reconciliation taking place. Many of these leaders are working tirelessly to promote true peace, reconciliation and unity. This is good news that rarely reaches headlines.
Messianic Jews and Arab Christians gather daily for prayer and worship meetings. They collaborate on local outreach and relief initiatives to see the gospel go forth with power and authority. These believers love one another deeply and are making a great impact through the love of Yeshua.
The vast majority of both Israelis and Palestinians do not yet have a personal relationship with Yeshua. But many are crying out to God in their distress and are encountering Yeshua (Psalm 107). The region is maturing in the spirit, and we want to see the fields that are ripe for harvest (John 4:35).
It is our conviction that the local believers are the ones best poised to serve as ministers of reconciliation in these difficult days (Eph 6:15; Isa 52:7; 2 Cor 5:14-18). The remnant may be small, but it is growing. The Lord is drawing many to Himself in this time.
- Pursue Sound Doctrine & Understanding
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4
In days where shifting winds of doctrine abound, we must be diligent students of the Word. Not drawing back in ignorance or apathy but seeking to understand God’s heart for Israel and for the Palestinian people. Be aware of unhealthy theologies on Israel or the imbalance of extreme Palestinian Liberation Theology.
Our hermeneutics are vital to this subject, and truth is often the razor’s edge between two opposing heresies. As believers we desire to walk in wisdom, knowledge and understanding regarding the days in which we live. We need to learn to perceive the times and know what we ought to do (1 Chr 12:32; Pro 24:3-6).
Understanding the background and context of Israel and the Middle East is essential. Especially as this story eventually culminates in the return of Yeshua. However, the depth of background and nuanced narratives can feel overwhelming. Start small and commit to keep learning. There are a variety of sound resources that can help us grow in our understanding of God’s heart.
Pray for the Current Situation in Israel and Gaza
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest,and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. Isaiah 62:6-7
We encourage you to pray for peace over Israel, Gaza and the region. Pray for truth and justice to prevail. We desire for the power of God’s love to bring forgiveness and healing across Israel and Gaza (Psalm 122:6-7; 133). The Lord can expose and break every demonic lie and false narratives that spread like wildfire (2 Corinthians 10:15; Isaiah 59:14; Amos 5:24).
Jew and Arab Alike
We want to pray for believers in the Land, both Jewish and Arab, to stand in unity. We hope to see the Body of Yeshua bring hope & healing to those who are suffering. May God use us to shine His light in the midst of a dark situation (Psalm 133; John 17:21).
This is the time to spread the gospel. We pray for people to have divine revelations of Yeshua the Savior and to turn to the Lord and be saved (Psalm 107; Acts 2:21, 26:17-18).
Support for Emergency Needs
We want to help strengthen and support local ministries and believers on the frontlines!
In response to the recent conflict, FIRM set up an Emergency Hope & Healing Fund. 100% of the funds donated will go to help local ministries. They reach out to provide relief on the ground for both Israel and Gaza. They are loving on both Israelis and Palestinians who have been affected by the hostilities.
For further information about this fund and to contribute, please visit firmisrael.org/hope.