It has been a bloody week in the Holy Land. Deadly clashes between the Israeli Army, Jewish Settlers and Palestinians have followed two deadly attacks within a 12 hour period and the consequent closure of East Jerusalem to non-resident Palestinians.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence in what Jews call their Promised Land. Over the last few months, tension has increased with Israel's decision to approve the use of live sniper fire against Palestinian rock throwers, including youth under the age of 15.
Comments surrounding Israel's disproportionate use of force against these Palestinian children drew my attention to this recent conflict: both Jews and Christians alike, using Scripture to not only justify, but endorse, the killing of children and youth.
How can this be, that the God I follow as the ultimate servant and peace-maker, is the same God that these people claim as the executioner of their youthful enemies?
The Holocaust will always remain one of the darkest times in human history. At least six million Jews were unjustly murdered at the hands of the Nazis and those who stood by in silence. Innocent children, considered the enemy of Germany, were inhumanely robbed of their innocence and life.
The Jewish people know exactly what it is like to be systematically persecuted against and oppressed; to be the victims of violent apartheid crimes committed by God-fearing 'defenders' of the Nation State.
Palestinians are guilty of many crimes and acts of terror. They continue to fan the flames of hatred by their violent outbursts and attacks on Israeli civilians. But like the Jews, who suffered under the oppression of the Nazis, the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their freedom amidst their own suffering through occupation and daily violations of human dignity.
The struggle, however, must be a non-violent one. Violence only begets violence. We have seen this time and time again as Palestinians react against the injustices committed against them, only to find themselves and their children in the firing line.
The slaves of Egypt
While God is not behind the violent interventions of either the Jews or the Palestinians, and certainly not those aimed at children, He is not asleep. In fact, the Jewish scriptures tell us that God is always on the side of the weak, the dispossessed, the poor and the alien. Our God is a God who set slaves free on an exodus to a promised land.
Could it be that the God of Israel is passionate about seeing Palestinians free from humiliation and persecution too? That the God who delivered the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, wants to free the Palestinians from their oppression under Israel? As Desmond Tutu profoundly says, the liberation of Palestine may actually lead to the liberation of Israel.
The Palestinians feel oppressed, the Israelis feel perpetually under siege. And so I am left with the same question I started with. Who is God? Is God the all-powerful, all-mighty defender of Israel who allows His people to humiliate, intimidate and kill children? Or is God the greatest peace-maker of Israel and all of Earth, who became a servant through His son Jesus, to do away with violence and oppression once and for all?
The answer, for me, is clear. It lies at the bottom of that old rugged cross where the mighty lion became the slain lamb, overcoming evil with love.
Jesus was a member of a community that suffered great discrimination at the hands of worldly powers and authorities. His people were poor, oppressed, attacked and humiliated. Yet Jesus did not resist with violence. He spoke words of truth and proclaimed justice in radical ways that undermined authority, threatened national security and protested against mainstream society.
Jesus waged war on his enemies, but only ever through love, and never through violence. Jesus was bestowed with all the powers of heaven and earth, but He chose to enter into the world as a servant and leave it as a slain lamb.
The life and death of Jesus challenges us with this central question: what is mercy if not undeserved grace bestowed? We have all been miraculously saved by God's underserved grace. When Jesus, who was God dwelling with us, taught and demonstrated radical non-violent love against His enemies, who are we to appoint ourselves as the judges and executioners of any one of God's beloved children?
A lasting peace
I am a Jew, a follower of Christ, and a friend to the Palestinians.
I offer no answers, no tangible solutions to this horrendous conflict. But I cannot ignore the truth revealed to me by Jesus Christâthat my God is a peace-making God. All I know is that peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognise their shared humanity, to understand that hatred only begets hatred and violence more violence.
The peace of Christ is outworked by living gently in a violent world, and trusting that Godânot usâis sovereign over that bloody Holy Land of ours.
Bex Silver is from Auckland, New Zealand and has a Masters in International Development. She is currently setting up her own social enterprise working with former refugees to find meaningful employment. Bex is passionate about people and advocating for social justice through her writing.
Bex Silver's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bex-silver.html