April 22, 2008
Israel at 60: Celebrate and Seek Justice
Top Evangelicals sign joint declaration that recognizes joyful celebration in Israel's creation and notes Palestinian "cries of pain and distress."
The nation-state of Israel will have its 60th birthday celebration on Thursday, May 8. This will be a milestone event in Middle East history. It comes at a time when Israel faces near-daily rocket attacks from northern Gaza.
While lovers of Israel from around the world will celebrate, there are others who will observe the anniversary and also maintain a deep commitment to justice for Palestinians.
Two individual Christians Ben White and Philip Rizk recently composed:
A Joint Declaration by Christians on Israel's 60th Anniversary This statement says in part: "...We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha'atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people's ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust. Additionally, it is an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural, economic and scientific achievements of Israeli society, in all its vitality and diversity.
We also recognise that this same day, millions of Palestinians living inside Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the worldwide diaspora, will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning, while more than 400 villages were destroyed (al-Nakba). For them, this day is not just about the remembrance of a past catastrophic dispossession, dispersal, and loss; it is also a reminder that their struggle for self-determination and restitution is ongoing.
To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to "seek peace and pursue it" (Ps. 34:14). We acknowledge with sorrow that for the last 60 years, while extending empathy and support to the Israeli narrative of independence and struggle, many of us in the church worldwide have denied the same solidarity to the Palestinians, deaf to their cries of pain and distress.
To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness."
A number of influential evangelicals have signed this declaration, including:
Brian McLaren, author/pastor
Bob Roberts, NorthWood Church
George Brushaber, Bethel University
Brother Andrew, author of Light Force and God's Smuggler
Joel Edwards, EAUK
The full list is here.