Last Sunday, we took a walk into the center of Catania where we encountered a protest on behalf of the Palestinians in the most recent flare-up between the Israelis and Palestinians. As far as protests go, there weren’t a lot of people there, but one interesting thing that I noticed was the mix between the different groups of people in attendance, including the Palestinian supporters, a group of LGBTQ activists, and communists. Here is a brief video that I took of the protest:
My kids, spurred on by our oldest who is very interested in political discussions, asked if we could talk about the Palestinian conflict and why this has been such a significant conflict over the years, so I think that we’re going to start that discussion now, walking through the Bible and its history between the Jewish people and the Palestinians to understand how we have arrived where we are today.
God’s promise to Abraham
To begin, we have to go back to the story of Abraham and God’s promise to Abraham, to give him the land of Canaan, the land that is basically today the nation of Israel:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. ”
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land. ” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Ishmael and Isaac
From there, we see that Abraham has two sons. The first son is Ishmael, born to Hagar the servant-slave of Sarai, Abraham’s wife. Sarai brings Hagar to Abraham in order to sleep with her and have an heir in an effort to fulfill the promise that God had given to Abraham to have an heir. Abraham is very old to have children, and Sarai is even quite a bit older, so they thought that it was not possible to have children naturally through Sarai.
God tells Abraham that he will bless Ishmael, but he says that his promise is that children will come through Sarai, now Sarah, and that his descendants of the covenant will come through this child, not through the children of Ishmael.
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.Genesis 17:15-22
God confirms his covenant with Isaac
So now, to take this one step further, we see that God also later speaks with Isaac. He confirms the covenant that he gave to his father Abraham, and also confirms that God will give Isaac’s descendants the land of Canaan.
Now there was a famine in the land —besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions. ”
However, we also see that there are people already there in the land. In this case, we see the Philistines, a group of people that the Israelites will be at war with for many years to come. But there are others as well, and from a physical territorial perspective, the dispute over whose is this land is at the heart of the dispute between the Israelites and the Palestinians even today.
My hope is to continue to walk through this story with my kids to help them see the Biblical background and then connect it to more recent history related to the nation of Israel so that they can begin to connect the dots between what they see in the Bible and what they see happening even today. More to come!