Holy Land Extremists
Dick with "the Rev" in Bethlehem's "Tent" restaurant, overlooking Shepherd's Field
The following is a reflection on our Israel-Palestine trip by Rev. Dick Gibson
I recently traveled to the Holy Land with the Seattle Council of Churches group to listen to religious and civic leaders and see the situation between Palestinians and Israeli’s for myself. We spent time talking about extremists. The following is my
summary of what I heard and saw:
Religious extremism has a fundamentalist base and a doctrinaire belief system. People hold strong beliefs in God and hold literally to some written word, and they want everyone else to agree. Once held, they will not deviate, adjust, modernize or change.
Muslims extremists appear to be held by the mystic of past ages, locked into cultures of previous centuries with regard to women, education, movies/TV/books, culture. They tend to choose violence to enforce their beliefs and preserve their perceived cultures.
The Orthodox Religious appear to be different from the Extremists. The Orthodox hold onto deep religious beliefs in many literal ways. The Extremists seem to focus on the Land of Israel. They hold a deep belief that God gave them the land –they read it in the Bible - and no one else should be there. They draw a map of their land and are unwilling to compromise. “Move the Palestinians to the desert or other countries. This is OUR land.” They erect Walls to block out distasteful views of other people or villages. They beat/kill children and adults who walk/farm/graze on their land. Many of these Extremists have moved into Settlement Blocks on Palestinian Land in the West Bank, throwing things down on passers- by from apartments overlooking the shopping streets of Hebron. Christian Peacemaker Teams are there to escort children to school, men and women to market and work. Others have poisoned wells and livestock in an attempt to drive out Palestinians who have lived on the land for centuries. These extremists also tend toward violence to make their point. It should be noted that land deals written in a religious book 3,000 years ago are not valid in modern nation states. Also these extremists miss the caveat that God will give the land as long as the people are faithful and keep the Covenant. (Gen 17:8,9, Num 14 etc)
Right wing Christians (Zionists) read their Bibles and believe many mixed up things about the Middle East. They hold that
if a new Temple is built in Jerusalem, Jesus will return and take them up to heaven where they will have a front row seat, peering over the clouds, to watch non-believers writhe in torment here on earth. They want a war to end all wars, the Jews to convert and Armageddon to arrive. Thus they want the Middle East to remain in turmoil. They do not advocate any kind of peaceful solutions, and keep stirring the pot to keep it bubbling. They support Settlement Building as a way of increasing tensions and producing the end violence for which they wait. Many of these Zionists are Americans with deep financial pockets
who give generously to causes which support the state of Israel and its military might. They are also involved in politics and keep the pressure on legislators to support Israel with no questions asked.
You may meet Zionists in your family, at work or school, in church or in your neighborhood. It is difficult to reason with them or explain other points of view and yet it is vital that we try, for their convoluted beliefs could stir up enough confusion to start a war! You probably will never meet Jewish Extremists unless you travel to Israel. You will hear about Muslim Extremists because they have become the new enemy for our day, and every Arab or strange looking person is quickly labeled a terrorist, isolated and dismissed. Then “we” do violence without thinking or investigating –they wear a turban, dress in unusual garb, read the Koran, etc.
People of Good Will tend to be MODERATES, willing to explore a variety of views, willing to compromise and change their opinions, even beliefs, when presented with new information.. This brief page is designed to help us think and talk about extremists and begin to recognize the trouble in the Mid East is not RELIGIOUS but political. It will take political insight and leadership to solve the conflicts and religion: love, forgiveness and care for each one as a child of God, will help us get there! Rev. Dick Gibson 2/1/08