Over the past days I’ve been almost magnetically drawn to the coverage of events in Gaza. It is charged, emotional, and – in many ways – conflicting. On the one hand, I feel real heartbreak as I’ve watched and read of families leaving their homes of 30 or more years, weeping, pleading, angry, and though many were ultimately resigned. The dramatic ‘last stand’ made on the roof of the temple in the settlement of Kfar Darom seemed understandable, as well. These are people with whom I have a common belief… that God keeps His promises. This, from Genesis 15 [NIV] is the one they defend:
God’s Covenant With Abram
1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward. “
2 But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
8 But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
However, like many long-running struggles seated in religious beliefs, this one has become more and more political for many, and a reason for terror and violence for others. The influence of these tactics was visible as the unarmed Israeli officials attempted to clear the temple roof, which was full of orange-clad protesters. The protesters were not residents of Kfar Darom, for the most part; they were “anti-disengagement movement” supporters who’d come to this place to make a political statement in a religious place.
That is not to say that they weren’t religious people, or that their religious practice was not honored. Jewish religious boundaries were respected by the soldiers & police as women protesters were carried/escorted out by women soldiers who protected their modesty and sheilded their children; male police escorted/carried male protesters, assisting with keeping headcoverings and other religious items safe and in place. The police and soldiers were unarmed, and many of both genders wept as they carried away settlers, as they did their duty in the face of true inner & outer turmoil. There is one photograph that particularly touched my heart – it shows an orgnge-shirted female settler sitting on the ground and weeping next to a male Israeli soldier, also distraught… the caption says that they are brother and sister. You can see that image in this collection assembled by the New York Times (free registration required to view).
The other image of the day that made an impression on me came on television near mid-day (late afternoon in Gaza). At a traditional Jewish prayer time, the evacuation proceedings seemed to pause as a group gathered in the shadow of the temple for prayers. In the midst of such a painful day of conflicted actions and emotions several settlers, police & soldiers began to pray together… their faith in God unifying them in the midst of it all. In that moment, I was reminded that God is faithful, that He gives and He takes away, and in the midst of our trouble – indeed what seems like a greivous loss, though one for the pursuit of peace and safety – we can still praise Him.
1 I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There the thrones for judgment stand,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
Peace be with you, Zion, peace be with you.