Christian activist: Read differently. Please
Mitri Raheb reports on how the Middle East pays the price for western interpretations of the Bible
My first memories are of occupation, in 1967, when Israel invaded Bethlehem. Since then, my life has been shaped by this reality, of living under occupation. The only place in the world I cannot drive is in my home country. To travel as an academic and speaker I have to go to Jordan to get my visa; I’m not allowed to fly from Tel Aviv airport. Every day you feel it – that there are two kinds of people, occupied and occupiers. Some people have rights; some people have their human rights violated.
I said in a new book this year that, being 50, I have lived through nine wars. Already that number is out of date. Every five years we have a war, and people’s lives are disrupted – but this war was like our 9/11: Over 10,000 homes were destroyed, 250,000 people were made homeless – some of them for the third time (after 1948 and 1967). This will impact our memory for a long time. It is hard to be optimistic now, as this war created so much hatred and fear, but ultimately there is no choice but for both of us to live together. The question is: How?
One of the most hazardous and repressive elements of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is biblical interpretation. As Palestinians we suffer from two things: The international community has subsidised Israel, providing free hardware – F-16s, tanks, the Iron Dome – but churches provide the software. In many churches, when people talk about Israel in the Bible they connect it with the state of Israel today and think that what happens there is divine intervention…
This is an extract from the October 2014 edition of Reform.