Keyword:

Against the Wall

Reconciliation is the very heart of the gospel. To separate out and isolate "evangelism" as a subject is to distort the gospel by wrenching it from its biblical context of holistic reconciliation. Indeed, to stress evangelism without also being agents of reconciliation betrays the full truth of the gospel and the mission of God.
The title of this article is intentionally provocative. It is meant to elicit reaction and hopefully engender thoughtful concern. When mentioned in an Israeli/Palestinian context, “the wall" immediately brings to mind the picture of the rapidly advancing barrier crisscrossing the land. For most of the residents of Israel, the existence of the wall, otherwise known as the "security fence," is viewed as an unavoidable necessity. The painful reality, though, is that believers in Yeshua live on both sides of this wall and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to meet one another.

The peoples divided by the wall view it through very different lenses. Roger Cohen, a columnist for the International Herald Tribune puts it this way:

To the Palestinians, it is a “racist, separating wall.” It is a part of their “ghettoization”, a term that deliberately or subliminally borrows from the Jewish holocaust experience. It is history through a glass darkly. To most Israelis, on the contrary it is merely a barrier, a rational construct that facilitates rather than complicates a two-state solution, represents their abandonment of any idealistic notion of brotherhood in favour of cool pragmatism, protects them from suicide bombers and enables them to look away. It is the next best thing to an escape from history.

The Other Side

Walls have two sides; you live on one or the other. On whichever side you find yourself, you are barred from the reality of what exists on the other side. Walls are of many different sorts and they are not always physical. They are inescapable and often necessary. We all live behind one sort or

another of them. There is, however, one wall that has been forever eradicated, and that is the wall of separation and enmity between all those who are in Messiah. Unfortunately, too many followers of Yeshua continue to live as if that wall were still in place. This obstructs and hinders the expression of the unity of Messiah's body.

In Israel today, reconciliation initiatives are on the increase. Local Messianic congregational leaders are meeting on an increasingly frequent basis with Arab pastors and leaders of Arab-speaking congregations in Israel. The bi-­annual Messianic leaders' prayer retreat, Sitting at Yeshua's Feet, now includes a number of Arab Israeli pastors. Each year the Caspari Centre’s leadership training programme, Hearts to Serve, has an increased number of Arab Christian participants and, occasionally, Arab and Jewish pastors will exchange pulpits. There is a developing consciousness that the Bible requires an embodied expression of the "one new man" in Messiah, in whom ethnic, social, and gender differences are no longer grounds for division.

Growing numbers of local Messianic congregations are making efforts to reach over to "the other side of the wall”. In Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya, Jerusalem and Tiberias, to name a few, local congregations are involved with aid distribution that reaches the Arab community. For example, over the Christmas holiday season in 2006, collections of money and clothing were sent by Messianic congregations and individual believers to the needy Christians of the Bethlehem area.

Hand in Hand

Yad b'Yad – Hand in Hand – is a recent reconciliation initiative involving high school pupils from the Israeli Messianic and Arab Christian congregations. This is the third year in which, during the summer holidays, groups of young Jewish and Arab believers will be hosted in Germany, meet with young German believers their age, and visit Auschwitz together. These trips are powerful times of encountering history together, and the healing and reconciling power of God is evident among the young participants.

In the context of conflict and wide cultural diversity that is Israel/Palestine, Musalaha is the only faith-based reconciliation ministry in Israel that intentionally involves Arab Palestinian Christians from the Palestinian territories and Gaza together with Arab Israeli Christians and Messianic Jews. The activities of Musalaha have increased dramatically during the past four years. Working from an unambiguous basis of common faith in Messiah, it brings together people from these different communities in order to deepen understanding and relationships.

Conferences, seminars, outings, trips, prayer meetings and camps are available for many different population subgroups. There are specialised activities for children, women, leaders, families, and youth. Working with a core group, who are involved long term, new people are brought into each of the activities. Over time, as people become more comfortable with each other, there is an engagement with some of the harder issues. While it is fundamental that spiritual unity is the basis of our relationship, there is a recognition that this unity neither erases our individual and corporate identities nor renders them unimportant.

The women's work of Musalaha has expanded over the last four years from one large conference a year to a network of five smaller groups of women, meeting on a regular basis. Musalaha's youth work has also grown and now includes the training of youth leaders. Trips are also organised in which young people spend three to five days hiking, camel riding and camping in the deserts of Israel or Jordan. This experience is uniquely suited to levelling differences between people, as survival is a joint task. Everything must be shared. The participants bond quickly and many ongoing friendships begin in the desert environment.

The situation in Israel/Palestine today is one of separation, animosity, hostility and destructive conflict and imbalance of power. Walls will not aid the situation. The only help is from God who has demolished the wall of separation and hostility. He alone is able to bring true reconciliation. As his followers, having been entrusted with his ministry of reconciliation, our proclamation of this truth is that reconciliation is ultimately a matter of God's power and victory. Just as our lives are individually transformed by the power of God, so our life as a community should reflect this transformation. As someone has written, "The pursuit of reconciliation is an ongoing struggle. This quest should not be expected to end conflict in this world, but rather to transform it”.

Lisa Loden
Chairperson of CWI Israel and a member of the International Coordinating Committee of LCJE.


This article is an edited version of a paper presented at the LCJE International Conference, 2007. The full text can be found at www.lcje.net/papers/2007.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2007 edition of the Herald

© Christian Witness to Israel      +44 (0) 1865 887830     comms@cwi.org.uk   •   charity registered nos: 271323/SCO41720  •   site map