We have talked about “place” a lot in past issues of the commonGood newsletter. While there are many avenues through which community may be formed, a physical place, a piece of earth, is the oldest, most enduring thing around which a community coalesces. So it begs the question of what to do when two seemingly very different people groups attempt to center their community on the same piece of land. Especially, especially, when that land is believed to contain the holiest of sites for not two, but three related, but different, major faith groups represented by those two people groups.
We need to be very clear: when Israel was formally (re)formed in 1947 it is not as if the land deeded to the Jewish people was empty. Palestinians had been living on the land since the time of Jesus. They did not come into Israel after its formation with the intention of wresting the land away from the rightful owners; quite the opposite occurred. Try to imagine that a group of people came in to your home, you community, and declared it theirs – full stop. According to them you have no right to this place where you and your family have lived for generations and you have no meaningful legal recourse with which to challenge this claim. You can perhaps see why there has been such manifest, continuous tension in that land as a result.
And yet, the resiliency of community is perhaps the most striking thing about visiting Palestine and Israel. Jewish people have held on to their identity and community though more than 2 millennia of routine persecution and displacement and are now attempting to forage a place for themselves with a specific piece of land at its core. Palestinians are hanging on to their sense of community and identity despite more than 70 years of continuous persecution and displacement. People in both these communities are fighting to bring these two groups to a place of peace and mutual understanding in the face of opposition from both sides. We must commit wholeheartedly to peace for all. Full healing and reconciliation can only come though finding and fostering of common ground.
by Lindsay Barnes