“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem … may there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels” (Psalm 122.6-7). Yet it is with great sadness that we see anything but peace and security in Jerusalem at the present time as conflict increases – at the time of writing it is believed that 213 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza with 12 on the Israeli side. As Hamas fires more rockets into Israel, and as Israel prepares another night of ‘intensive’ strikes against Hamas’s network of underground tunnels, President Biden joins calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants – and yet this seems like a forlorn hope as most commentators know that Israel will always defend itself whenever it is attacked, whereas Hamas sees the Israelis as an oppressive occupying force and has threatened to continue firing rockets into Israel for months. But assuming peace was possible – what should it look like, and what should we pray for?
For many years, successive American administrations have favoured a two state solution, but this vision has been constantly hampered by the frequent building of Israeli settlements in disputed sectors, and more recently by President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, implicitly recognising Jerusalem to be ‘Israel’s undivided capital’. This has upset Palestinians who want East Jerusalem to be their capital of any future state. This was the backdrop to the current crisis which was sparked off when Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque to quell Palestinian rioters who were using the sacred site to store rocks and fireworks to throw at Israeli officers.
This rapid escalation of violence has confirmed for many the view that a two state solution is now impossible, and yet the ‘winner takes all’ mentality of both Muslim and Jew will only lead to even more violence, pain and suffering – so, how should we pray?
Well, perhaps Christians have something to offer here! Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths, believing that God gave the land to Abraham and his descendants, but if you only look at the land purely through the eyes of the ‘Old Testament’, you might understandably perceive this ‘giving’ to be a ‘right’ (and therefore something to be fought over), but the Christian doesn’t just see this story through an ‘Old Testament’ lens but a ‘New Testament’ one as well. Viewed through this lens, the Christian understands that the giving of the land was not a right nor an end in itself ‘lasting forever’, but a ‘temporary’ gift through which the love of God would ultimately be revealed, as it was – in Jesus! For ‘in Christ’, God’s love for the world was not only revealed to Jews, but also to every nation and tribe in the world. It is therefore no coincidence that Jesus’ statement ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ is immediately followed by ‘blessed are the peacemakers’. So incredible as it may sound, and as difficult as it may be, perhaps we should not be working towards a two state solution, but praying for a one state solution, where all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness can also learn to live, love and respect one another. Surely it is only in this way that we can truly pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24.1