What used to be a relatively rarely known term in America has recently, at least to a somewhat larger degree, become a household term: The Gaza Strip. Although Terry and I have been to the Holy Land on multiple occasions, we have not yet visited Gaza. And unless things change significantly for the better, we most likely never will.
You’ve no doubt read and heard about current hostilities between Israel and Palestine. This conflict goes back many years and basically boils down to the age old questions of land ownership and independent self-governance. More details are available from numerous sources, including http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background.
For centuries what is now called the Holy Land has been the venue of seemingly endless battles and wars. Biblical stories of the Old Testament relate victories that made warriors into kings and defeats that destroyed property, enslaved people and devastated families. And, except for the Jordan River Valley, a fertile region irrigated by the waters of the Jordan River, the land itself is mostly barren. Compared with many other parts of the world, it’s hardly worth fighting for.
Yet the fighting continues, with mortar fire from Hamas militants in Palestine’s Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon coming within one mile of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the most populous city in Israel. Israeli retaliation has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 1.8 million in a space half the size of the city of Austin, Texas. Victims are both military personnel and innocent civilians.
So far, Palestinians in the West Bank, principally Bethlehem, the city of our Savior’s birth, are being spared the direct violence. Yet our friends at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, including Pastor Mitri Raheb, are understandably concerned about future prospects of a peaceful settlement of the hostilities.
In my prior life as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod I met with Rev. Dr. Raheb and Right Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation. Both are Palestinians I find to be reasonable, honorable men who pray and work for what seems to be the elusive dream—a negotiated settlement resulting in two states and lasting peace.
If you haven’t already done so, please join me in praying for peace between Israel and Palestine, and for the safety of people in the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip.
God bless you and have a wonderful week!