“We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and He devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”
2 Samuel 14:14
Two arms extended. An Israeli. A Palestinian. Each members of neighboring communities, but chosen to be enemies at birth.
If you pricked both of their fingers, what color would appear?
Red like the blood poured out on the streets in violent acts of exclusion. Red like the hearts of the wounded, the vengeful, the bitter. Red like the signs that teach each side to fear one another.
Dust enveloped us as the wind howled and raged against our group repeatedly. Dust and wind are a harsh combo. I looked up, craning my neck to get an adequate view of the immense slab of concrete before me without giving the dust permission to make its home in my eyes.
Like the desert surrounding me is thirsty for water, this land desperately needs reconciliation to be poured out. The wall may keep violent people at bay, but it’s only aggravated the schism of misunderstanding between two people who don’t know one another. They need to interact, to see that they really aren’t as evil as they’ve been told.
The wall keeps that knowledge locked away.
This wall was placed in the middle of an Arab neighborhood called Shofat in the outskirts of Jerusalem. Friends and families, once across the street from each other, are now cut off. The seemingly arbitrary placement of the wall marks the line of who is “in” and who is “out.”
The friends I’ve created on the “outside” aren’t different than those on the in. But big red signs warn that area A, under Palestinian control, is a dangerous place for Israelis and it is illegal for them to enter.
And the immense wall, winding its way through demolished homes and divided neighborhoods, keeps all those who hold a West Bank ID largely away from Israelis.
Settlements, like huge fortresses, host populations of Israelis in the West Bank, usually on land that used to belong to Palestinians. But there is little, if any, interaction between the two neighbors. Barbed wire fences, armed guards and surveillance cameras surround them. They even have their own streets that Palestinians cannot use.
You are either in or out.
I looked around me in Shofat, the neighborhood where I stood in the city of Jerusalem. Big black containers cluttered the roofs, eagerly awaiting to be filled with water, which can be turned off without warning or explanation.
A hundred yards away a building stood with three Israeli flags waving in front of it. It’s roof was empty, no big black containers littering the view.
“People often find themselves sucked into a long history of wrongdoing in which yesterday victims are today’s perpetrators and today’s perpetrators are tomorrow’s victims. Is there any innocence within such a history?”
“Evil generates new evil as evildoers fashion victims in their own ugly image.”
Miroslav Volf, “Exclusion and Embrace”
Exclusion begets exclusion, and once written into law, it’s a sure way to create a situation where it’s “us” against “them.” Both sides in this conflict have excluded each other in both subtle and violent ways. But the reality is only one here has the political power to enforce that exclusion.
And while more and more laws are enacted to further alienate Israelis and Palestinians, I believe that God is at work. He is devising ways to make sure the banished ones, the excluded, do not remain outcasts.
Red like the blood of Christ who brought near those who were far away, on the outside, excluded.