And this gives us hope…
How the Church is responding to developments in Israel and Palestine, by Philip Brooks
Inside the Ibdaa Cultural Centre in Bethlehem hangs a striking mural. It depicts a large keyhole through which can be glimpsed an empty land. Around the keyhole hang door keys belonging to homes lost by Palestinians in 1948, during the war which followed the ending of the British mandate for Palestine. It was a time in history celebrated by the Israelis as independence, and remembered by the Palestinians as the Nakba (‘catastrophe’).
The 1949 armistice gave 77% of the territory to Israel, and brought to culmination the infamous phrase, ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’. The Ibdaa Cultural Centre is a ramshackle camp for the people who have been made homeless in the divided and occupied Palestinian territories which struggle for existence. The Palestinians describe their country as ‘like the holes in a Swiss cheese’, with those holes inexorably disappearing as more and more land is lost.
In May of this year, the world witnessed an example of the continued erosion of Palestinian space in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The Israeli Supreme Court was about to rule on the eviction of 300 Palestinians to make way for Israeli settlers. These were Palestinian families who had been driven from West Jerusalem in 1948, as the city was divided into two territories. East Jerusalem has subsequently been occupied by the Israelis since 1967. The potential forced evictions became one of the flashpoints for the conflict which ultimately spread to Gaza, and we watched with horror at the terrible casualties which ensued.
The volatility and complexity of the situation in Israel and Palestine brings home why the United Reformed Church’s 2016 General Assembly passed a resolution mandating the Mission Committee to develop a work programme ‘to enable synods, local churches and individuals to become more aware and to respond with informed prayer, grace and solidarity’. Five years on, the Mission Committee will report back on that work and bring a series of ten resolutions to the 2021 General Assembly (9–12 July)…
Philip Brooks is the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
This is an extract from an article published in the July/August 2021 edition of Reform