Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem
For many years I’ve heard the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. I’ve seen it on signs and billboards, bumper stickers and bookmarks. Each time I’ve thought about the difficulties of the Israeli Jews living in a city under very difficult circumstances, having fought several wars over the last hundred years to be able to have a country of their own — a land that God promised them thousands of years ago.
This is my sixth trip to Israel and Jerusalem. On my last trip, about a year ago, I met for the first time some Palestinian Muslims and Christians. It helped me to see a bigger picture than I’ve ever seen before, and to begin to realize the complexity of the situation. When I wrote an entry to this blog on April 1, 2015, I said:
My best understanding is that God gave Israel a land. He promised it to Abraham back in Genesis. And He said the land would be theirs forever. Forever means forever. But, can no one else live in the land with the Jewish people? After all, God’s purpose for choosing them wasn’t just so they could be land owners. He chose them to bring people to him. To share their faith in God. God who forgives us when we repent and trust Him. How can they bring the world to God if they are isolated in a land?
For the first time last year I began to see Israel as not occupied just by the Jewish people, but Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians. OK, I thought, this is pie in the sky — and certainly no one who lives here would be in favor of this. But on this trip, twice I have heard local residents speak of this very thing. The Palestinian Muslim cab driver who drove us from the airport spoke of everyone living together in peace. And then an Israeli/American Jewish museum guide said the same things – we can all live side by side in this place.
This is AMAZING to me. Never have I been taught anything about the land being shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Never have I heard a news report about mixed neighborhoods cooperating and cohabitating without incident. Yet I’m hearing it from local people on the street.
Now I know I paint a simple picture. There is still much to overcome and many hurtful histories to be forgiven. But maybe, just maybe, there is hope for peace in Jerusalem. Not just a peaceful place for Jews to live in Jerusalem. But peace between varying peoples, ideologies and faiths as they live in this world city.
So now when I see and hear the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, I will be praying not just for a peaceful place for the Israeli Jews to live, but for a city to become a home to Jews, Muslims and Christians who live side by side in tolerance, kindness and peace — an example to the rest of the world.
I believe God loves every person, regardless of labels we place on ourselves or others. Now God, help us to love each other.
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