Leading the largest independent Evangelical Christian Arab ministry in Israel and the Palestinian territories, I believe it is time to address the issue of where the indigenous Christian population needs to place itself in this moment of sacred history.For over six decades, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has overshadowed all other complexities of life in the Holy Land. As a born-again Christian who believes in the authority and infallibility of Scripture, the Bible is the compass I use to engage not only with my fellow Christians but also with my neighbors.For nearly two millennia, Christian history and theology has looked at the Jewish people as a suffering minority bound by the wrath of God to anguish for rejecting Jesus. The tragedy of the Shoah has completely changed the Western Church’s view of the Jewish people, but the Church has not fully dealt with the political conundrum resulting from the birth of the modern Jewish state.
Nowadays, it is easier for Christians to condemn Antisemitism as a misunderstanding of Christian teaching than it is to come to terms with the valid existence of a Jewish people in Israel. In resisting acknowledgment of the transformation of Jews to victors, Christians may subconsciously maintain the traditional stereotype of Jews as a minority shunned by God.With over two billion Christians in the world, covenant-believing Christians are leading the way in changing the hearts and minds of many within our community of faith to understand the importance of the Land of Israel. This small movement has the challenge of convincing the mainstream that Israel is more than just a political event and can serve as an opportunity for repentance.As a Palestinian Christian who grew up during the first intifada in Bethlehem and threw rocks at Israeli tanks, Palestinian liberation theology has been at the forefront of my upbringing.The fact remains that the Palestinian Church has faced a major theological crisis since the establishment of the State of Israel. Not only do we face the same challenges of a spiritualized Jerusalem and Israel, which does not recognize the physical and real Israel as part of a Godly plan, but this situation is exacerbated when the average Palestinian sees Israeli Jews as soldiers or settlers, leaving Israel in a position where it can do no right and its justification for existence is questioned.
There is no question that some Israeli policies are discriminatory to its neighbors and minority communities.Every country has its sins. However, no one in the world would take the legitimacy argument to other countries for their past and current transgressions. Only Israel stands out among nations with its legitimacy always questioned.Many on Israel’s side wish to highlight the goodwill of the country, thinking it will somehow convince the world of its goodness. However, all these goodwill examples do not address the crux of the issue to a church community that has spiritualized Jerusalem, and looks at the Land promise as no longer important, since Jesus fulfilled it all.Yet, if we take our Bible seriously, we cannot deny the fact that the Jewish people are the apple of God’s eye and Israel plays a significant role in the Divine plan.I believe Christians, especially those indigenous to the Land of Israel, can play a vital role in reaching an ultimate peace as representatives of Jesus. This does not mean we have to sacrifice national or religious identity. In fact, we could be the true “watchmen on the wall” in making Israel a better nation.We are living in miraculous times as God is shaping events that just a few years ago would have been hard to imagine.I have come to personally know Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and, indeed, he is a modern-day Nehemiah. His sincere heart for fellowship with members of the Christian faith and for creating a platform where both communities can learn about each other, without compromising core theological doctrine, is truly revolutionary.But what is most significant of all is that he has not forgotten the Christian Arab people living in the Holy Land. To witness Orthodox Jews changing their hearts toward their Christian neighbors indigenous to the Land only demonstrates that hope for a better tomorrow is truly within our grasp. Pastor Steven Khoury is vice president of Holy Land Missions in Israel and the Palestinian Authority