Early in August, I flew from New York to Tel Aviv. I was a part of a faith oriented solidarity trip, with Christians United for Israel, focused on supporting Israel from a prayer and public policy perspective. In my mind this was a humanitarian trip – it was made up of a diverse group of 51 ministers representing all 50 states plus Washington, DC. We prayed earnestly for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel. Of special concern to everyone was the protection of women and children of all faiths and ethnicities.
The three day trip to Israel was worth every moment we invested. We got a chance to talk with Israeli citizens who were practicing Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We were also allowed to view regions targeted by rockets, conflict zones, and selected sacred sites.
The most surprising bit of information we gathered was that nearly one out of every five Israelis is of Arab descent. Nowhere was this diversity more evident to us than in Jerusalem. Arabs and other minorities live with the full rights of citizenship in Israel, unlike Muslim controlled lands surrounding them - where religious freedom is almost non- existent.
Three questions flooded my mind during the eleven hour non-stop flight to the Holy Land of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
How we got to this point
The old adage correctly says, “Timing is everything!” In my opinion the best way to trace the origins of the most recent problems in Israel is to look to the pages of our international papers.
Reuter’s news service reported, “The June 12 abduction of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel triggered an escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.” Unfortunately, this was not just a random act of violence. On July 11 Hussam Qawasmeh, a resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, confessed to serving as the "commander" in the kidnapping. This was proof that Hamas initiated the current conflict.
During our visit we got a chance to meet the father of Gilad Shaer and discuss his perspective of the high price of armed conflict. Fathers on our team wept as they identified with the devastating grief and the senseless loss of life.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.