“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
Miri, a young Israeli Messianic participant in Musalaha’s recent initiative for young adults, writes in response to these verses (translation from Hebrew):
“People have been bringing their sacrifices the Temple altar to atone for their sins so that they can have a relationship with God. The Lord shows us in this verse that it is very important for us to restore our relationship with our brothers before we come and attempt to be reconciled with God.”
She observes about her own Messianic Jewish community that: “We don’t always want to relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, feeling somehow disconnected from it, or powerless to do anything about it. Also we are in a more secure position (relative to the Palestinians) and so we tend to be apathetic and lack motivation to seek reconciliation with our Palestinian Brothers in Christ.
And yet as Israeli followers of Yeshua (Jesus), if we have a broken relationship with our Palestinian Brothers and Sisters (that we know about and can do something to correct it but don’t) then our own relationship with God will be effected. This then becomes a very big problem.” She finishes by saying: “Only now I understand the enormity of our calling to reconciliation.”
What a joy and an honor for Maala and I to partner with Salim and the Musalaha team in taking a combined group of 30 young adults (Israeli Messianic Believers and Palestinian Christians) on a 4-day trip to Germany for an initiative in reconciliation. Most of the participants already had multiple experiences in Musalaha forums and were coming with a certain degree of ambivalence. Some of this sentiment stemmed from a natural apprehension of the subject material we had chosen and some from frustration at the lack of will to seek reconciliation that they were observing in their own respective faith communities. Almost all of these young Israelis and Palestinians are well-educated, beginning careers or are involved in various ministries.
Our chosen topic for the initiative was, “our historical narratives” and how can we as Jesus-followers ‘remember well’ given the enormous differences in the way we recount our community’s ‘stories’. Our goal was to seek ways that enable us to present a message of hope to our societies rather than find ourselves inadvertently adding to the conflict that so often disables us.
We know from experience that simply listening to one another recount our respective historical narratives is a fruitless exercise, loaded with emotion that can often end badly, leaving people hurt and angry. But doing so while applying the ‘tools’ that God has given us – the principles and ethics of God’s Kingdom and being even willing to critique our own narratives can be very fruitful. Miri’s comments at the beginning of this report reflect are a good example of this. Three of these ‘Kingdom principles’ we applied this time included:
Matthew 5: 23, 24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar…”
Matthew 7:4, 5 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your…”
Romans 12:9-13 “Love must be sincere…Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…”
Applying these Kingdom principles in the context of our Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very challenging, but at the same time life-changing. I can no longer rejoice in my own freedom to enjoy my Jewish identity in Christ in a ‘Jewish homeland’ without having compassion for my neighbor, my Palestinian brother or sister who is experiencing the pain of displacement and hopelessness. When I make this choice of compassion then I also begin to build a ’bridge’ between our two narratives. This in turn provides the motivation to seek fellowship in visible and productive ways that will benefit both communities. We feel sure that we shall see the fruit of these choices in the months ahead.
We would like to express our gratitude to the staff at Schönblick Christian Guesthouse for their hospitality. We would also like to thank Open Doors’ Ministries and Philippus-Dienst who gave financially to make this trip possible, and we are especially grateful to the Philippus Dienst who helped us on the logistical end in Germany. Not only did they demonstrate their love and support for their Palestinian and Israeli brothers in Christ by making this event financially possible, but also by encouraging a significant group of young German Christians to come and interact with us. Many of them will be here with us in the Land during the coming year – to serve and encourage – in of itself, a wonderful demonstration of Romans 12.
By Pastor Evan Thomas
Musalaha Chairman of the Board