Building walls is something that we humans do well. The Berlin Wall has since long become history now, but elsewhere in the world walls are still daily used to separate people from each other. The wall along the West Bank in Israel is perhaps the most famous example. This barrier is intended to protect Israelis against Palestinian terrorists. This has profound implications for the daily life of the Palestinians living in the West Bank.
The wall is also a symbol of the segregated society in Israel. Nelson Mandela has always been very critical of the occupation, and compared the situation to apartheid. From whichever side you look at it, the wall is not pretty. But against the flow of politics and violence, there are also countless activities in Israel that bring people together.
And then there is the Kingdom of God. There they want nothing to do with all those walls of hostility; Jesus breaks them all down.
For he is our peace: in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Ephesians 2, 14
In the book Atonement, Justice and Peace, Belousek illustrates this text with the story of Elias Chacour. He is a leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Palestine. As a young priest in his first parish he had a tough time with conflicts between various groups of people. As a good pastor, he naturally tried to reconcile them with each other. But gradually, the hostility started to grown in his own heart. Only when he recognized this, asked for forgiveness and in this way killed the hatred in his own soul, he was able to bring the people in his parish together. He has been doing this ever since, showing us how spiritual peace has big consequences for society.
The last words in this blog are for Elias Chacour, with an excerpt from a speech that he delivered at an American university in 2001:
You who live in the United States, if you are pro-Israel, on behalf of the Palestinian children I call unto you: give further friendship to Israel. They need your friendship. But stop interpreting that friendship as an automatic antipathy against me, the Palestinian who is paying the bill for what others have done against my beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holocaust and Auschwitz and elsewhere.
And if you have been enlightened enough to take the side of the Palestinians — oh, bless your hearts — take our sides, because for once you will be on the right side, right? But if taking our side would mean to become one-sided against my Jewish brothers and sisters, back up. We do not need such friendship. We need one more common friend. We do not need one more enemy, for God’s sake.