Tel Aviv, Israel, July 27, 2014.
From my seat at the pool, I watch the Iron Dome rockets sail overhead, leaving crayon-white trails and ending their journey in a loud explosion over the nearby ocean. Another rocket from Gaza to Tel Aviv has been destroyed.
The sirens sound. Israel is at war again.
Why? What is going on in Israel?
I have words but I have no answers. Honestly, I distrust both political voices and political correctness. I am not trying to make a statement or advance any cause. I am simply processing my own thoughts out loud. To the point, as a man who has vowed to seek peace, and make peace, and bring peace, I find myself in a land which constricts with war.
In our last two weeks here, I have enjoyed lots of hours spent talking over beer and coffee with Israelis and Palestinians–Christians, Jews, and Muslims. I have visited over thirty holy sites, prayed three times at the Wall, been to the West Bank twice, and experienced four Iron Dome attacks. Now, after five trips to this country, some things just show up in my mind. I have one distillate word. Walls.
I am writing as I look out at the Mediterranean, a calm grey-blue breaking out like a teenager with small white sails. On the beach in front of me is the shell of an abandoned concrete building, it’s walls covered with years of graffiti. It is a war-relic left to declare a night years ago when an Islamic suicide bomber killed many Jews as they danced in a night club before this same grey-blue ocean.
Israel is a land of walls. In the far north is Dan, where brick Canaanite walls of 1800-1900 BC can be seen. Less than 100 feet away are newer walls, stone-dirt-steel walls, an abandoned Israeli observation post from 1967, watching over Lebanon. Two walls at the same place separated by almost 4000 years. The walls of Israel.
Throughout history, walls have been erected in our world to protect us. To keep the bad people out. Or to keep the common people out. Or to keep the “other” people out. King David, around 1000 BC, conquered the Canaanites of Salem, and built new walls around the city soon to be known as Jerusalem. Over the next 3000 years, Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. One Kingdom replaced another in charge of the walls. Solomon rebuilt walls. Nehemiah rebuilt walls. Hadrian rebuilt the walls. Herod the Great rebuilt walls. The Romans rebuilt walls, and then tore them down. The Turks rebuilt walls. The Syrians tore them down. The Crusaders rebuilt walls. Saladin rebuilt walls. The British even rebuilt walls.
Now new walls surround the West Bank and Gaza. Jews on one side, non-Jews on the other. Some are high chain link with razor wire. Others are 40 feet high steel and concrete, oddly prison-like with guard towers and cameras. Interestingly, many are painted with graffiti just like the beachside monument. Perhaps the walls of Israel are necessary, perhaps not. I do not claim to understand all the geopolitical factors involved. I do not have answers, only words. Still, it is the way of fear. Build walls. Rebuild walls. Chinese rulers built the Great Wall, and Genghis Khan bribed a few guards and the wall was useless. Others have tried walls in modern times: around the Jewish ghettos in Poland, or in Stalingrad, or across Berlin. Morocco, Belfast, North Korea, and Hong Kong all have dividing walls today. As an observer, it doesn’t seem that walls have been very effective in producing peace and safety, does it?
Written in the Bible 2000 years ago, we read of another way which seems, at least to me, current and modern: “He himself has become our peace, destroying the barrier, the walls of hostility…”