by Avi T., Associate Pastor, Tents of Mercy Network
The week three murdered teenage Jewish
bodies were found and "avenged", the Torah reading in synagogues around
the world read like a front page story. Just like the Palestinians, Balak
and his people (living on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea), tried every
method to prevent Israel from permanently moving into the
neighborhood (Numbers 22-25). He summoned Balaam from present day
northwestern Syria, to come curse Israel. But God had other plans.
"God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it." (Numbers 23:19-20)
Elohim can bring good from every situation. Balaam ended up proclaiming blessing and destiny over Israel, declaring the key role that she would play in God's plan of redemption and justice for all nations.
"... in the latter days ... a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult ... Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. Out of Jacob One shall have dominion ... Alas! Who shall live when God does this?" (Numbers 24: 14,17-19,23)
We are living in tumultuous times. Here in Israel we again feel the precarious "tinderbox existence". Evil seeks the smallest excuse to fan the flames. In response to the coldblooded abduction and murder of three Jewish teenagers, extremist Jewish activists took revenge and murdered an Arab teenager. News of this young man's death was a lit match in a field of dry thorns. Rioting, Molotov cocktails, vandalism and then whole scale rocket fire ensued. While Jews and Arabs have separate neighborhoods and towns, they still live in close proximity. Many Arabs work in Jewish towns. Many Jews shop in Arab towns. When tensions flare, the whole fabric of coexistence can fray and begin to unravel.
Terror targets have moved from being mainly soldiers to now include teens, women and children. For 18 tense days the nation joined together hoping against hope that three boys would be found alive. Before the fate of the teens was discovered, we discussed the situation with our children (Avi speaking). Our preteen girls expressed fear, realizing the victims were close to their age. The families of the kidnapped could barely sleep or eat. How could they? We saw it in their eyes on TV interviews.
My next door neighbor (David speaking) employs two middle-aged Arab brothers to farm his fields and shepherd his sheep. Browned and creased by decades of working in the sun, their faces convey no threat. But when we started talking about the three murders and the retaliation murder, one said he wished deceased prime minister Ariel Sharon were still in power, because he was the one who had withdrawn all Jewish settlements from Gaza. In other words, even many Arabs who work daily with Jews and count them friends, believe that the main obstacle to peace is the Jewish "settlers" living in the "West Bank", and believe the settlers should be forcibly removed. This interpretation by peaceful Arab Israeli citizens is evidence of the local and world-wide battle for public opinion on this subject. While a few extreme Jewish settlers certainly need to be weeded out, they were not the source of the conflict, nor are they its main perpetrators now. It was during the very years from 1948 to 1967 when no Jewish settlers lived in Gaza nor the West Bank, that the Palestinian terror groups were formed. So settler presence in the West Bank cannot be the cause.
Beyond the horizon of our own tumult, past the northeastern border of Israel in Balaam's old neighborhoods of Syria and Iraq, we see even greater tumult. There it is of a Sunni Muslim vs. Shiite Muslim variety, to the tune of thousands of deaths per month!
The end of this round of conflict in Israel is not yet in sight. Israel is pin-pointing Hamas targets in Gaza as salvos of Muslim rockets arc toward Jewish civilian areas. At any point tense nerves could simmer down or escalate even further.
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