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Shifting Views on Israel-Palestine

The news from Israel and the Palestinian territories seldom sounds hopeful. More often than not, the more we learn about the many complex layers of the conflict, the more discouraged we can become about the prospects for the future. When I speak about the realities on the ground there, people frequently ask me: What does hope look like?

I recently asked some friends and colleagues to share with me their thoughts about Israel and Palestine. I want to share two of the stories that were shared with me, stories that give me hope--both for the future of Israel and Palestine, as well as for North American Christians seeking to be agents of reconciliation and peace in the region.

Bill Thornburg of Resonate Global Mission

I grew up believing that the present state of Israel is God’s chosen people today, just as it was when God chose Abraham. I also believed that the United States was a Christian country and that anyone who opposed it had to be evil. I believed that all Palestinians were terrorists.

I believed that all Palestinians were terrorists.

I now know more about the realities of the world than I used to. At Calvin College and Calvin Seminary, I learned what Reformed theology teaches about Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus and the church.

Later, I became involved with Hope Equals, a program of Christian Reformed World Missions that worked with young adults to advocate for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I made two trips to Israel and Palestine and learned that not all Palestinians are terrorists. Most of them just want to provide for their families and live in peace.

In some ways, I feel like I was duped.

In some ways, I feel like I was duped. I don’t believe there was any malicious intent; my parents, pastor, and the culture I was part of truly believed they were following the teachings of the Bible. But I was only shown part of the picture. The broader reality was not as straightforward as I was led to believe.

I hope that in some small way I can help people see the other side of the picture and that they will come to support peace between Israel and Palestine based on a theology of justice and  reconciliation.

Bill Vanden Bosch, leader of spiritual pilgrimages to Israel/Palestine since 1999

As those who share spiritual roots with both Jewish Israelis and Christian Palestinians, we have a responsibility to speak and act in a way that lets “justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24) Sadly, many North American Christians are not fully informed about the situation in Israel/Palestine. Their understanding is formed by the theology of popular Christian leaders and by media outlets which seldom portray both sides of the conflict. If we as Christians are going to respond wisely and with integrity regarding the conflict, learning about the conditions of Palestinians in the current situation through balanced study or visits to Israel/Palestine is essential.

There is a current lack of international will to find a just solution.

As I look at what is happening regarding the Israel/Palestine situation, there is a current lack of international will to find a just solution. Although some talk of a two state solution, the “facts on the ground”--the growth of Israeli settlements, the power of Israeli political parties which promote annexation of Palestinian land, the weakness of the Palestinian political system filled with internal rivalries, and the lack of an internationally trusted and powerful mediator--suggest that this option is unrealistic.

I have hope that the “kindness, justice, and righteousness” in which God “delights” will bless this wonderful land.

The most probable outcome, in my view, is that there will eventually be a “one state solution” with Israel controlling the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. What form that state takes will determine whether there will be justice, healing, and restoration. If Israel becomes a newly formed nation with equal citizenship rights for Palestinians as well as Jews, I have hope that the “kindness, justice, and righteousness” in which God “delights” will bless this wonderful land that is the setting for much of Scripture (Jeremiah 9:23-24). If not, the tragic heartaches of occupation with its injustice and pain will continue to be the story of the Land.


I find hope in the words of these friends. Like them, I think hope looks like unity in all of the diversity that God created. Hope looks like the freedom to worship God without barriers. Hope looks like children being able to attend school without threats of violence. Hope looks like a nation where all citizens enjoy freedom of movement without restriction or fear.

Like them, I think hope looks like unity in all of the diversity that God created.

I also think that hope looks like changing hearts and minds. Hope looks like Christians in the U.S. and Canada advocating for the safety and prosperity of people who have far too little of it. Just as I find hope in the gospel, I find hope in the testimonies of those committed to seeking justice and peace.

This is the final post in our 6-part series Israel-Palestine: The View From Here. Don't want to miss future Do Justice posts? Join in here (or at the button below) for weekly email updates


Editor's note: The Middle East Study Trip report concluded that the major contribution the CRC can make as agencies, institutions, and individuals is to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians -- particularly our sisters and brothers in Christ -- among our members and friends. Its recommendations were accepted by the Board of Trustees (now the Council of Delegates) on behalf of Synod, and were subsequently implemented. To learn more about how the Christian Reformed Church thinks about injustice and the persecution of the Church, see the Belhar Confession and the Belgic Confession, respectively. 

[Image: Mariano Avila]

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