We continue our prayer for Israel and Palestine. We also continue our journey with them, in their struggles for peace. For a brief introduction of the modern struggles in Israel and Palestine, slightly amended, read the Historical Background below.
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Isaiah 43:16-21 gives us the good news of God’s new promise. Those who rely on their strength will not be able to do anything. God promises to do new things, amazing things. Rivers in the wilderness. Life where life could not be perceived; new life where armies and warriors, horses and chariots have left destruction and death.
In the middle of all the struggle and fighting between the people of Israel and Palestine, God asks us to let go of the old because God will do new things. In the strife filled world where ideologies and extremism leads us to war and killing each other, God asks us to let go and promises to do new things, unimaginable things: life in the midst of death.
God who seeks peace,
God who works for peace,
God who brings peace,
We pray for Palestine and Israel.
On both sides…
May bridges of peace and community replace tunnels and walls built out of conflict.
May respect and compassion, replace enmity and division.
May forgiveness and reconciliation replace revenge and retaliation.
May trust and commonality replace mistrust and self-focus.
On both sides…
May the past be let go, so that a new way of being might come to be the future.
May the sharing of a common humanity break new space beyond the bounds of nation, religion, race or culture.
May all seek justice and the common good, rather the focus on self-interest and selfishness.
May healing come to the hurt.
May restoration come to the broken.
May peace come to the place and its peoples.
Peace be with all.
After World War II, Britain found itself in intense conflict with the Jewish community over Jewish immigration limits, as well as continued conflict with the Arab community over limit levels. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees sought a new life far from their destroyed communities in Europe. In 1947, the British government announced it would withdraw from Mandatory Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution that replaced the British Mandate with an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem (under an International Trusteeship System).
The Jewish Agency accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee of Palestine rejected it, and indicated that they would reject any other plan of partition.
On the following day, 1 December 1947, the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike, and Arab gangs began attacking Jewish targets. The Jews were initially on the defensive as civil war broke out, but in early April 1948 moved onto the offensive. The Arab Palestinian economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled.
On 14 May 1948, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate, the head of the Jewish Agency declared the establishment of a Jewish state to be known as the State of Israel.
The following day, the armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq—entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Contingents from Yemen, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Sudan joined the war. The apparent purpose of the invasion was to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state at inception, and some Arab leaders talked about driving the Jews into the sea.
After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations estimated that more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled by or fled from advancing Israeli forces during the conflict—what would become known in Arabic as the Nakba (“catastrophe”).
Between 1948 and 1958 Jews in Arab countries and Iran were arrested, had their property seized. They were expelled from most countries and persecuted in the others with no option but to leave. They were not permitted to take or sell their property. Flourishing Jewish communities from across the Middle East dwindled and in many cases disappeared completely in the wake of the expulsions and emigration.
By 1966, Israeli-Arab relations had deteriorated to the point of actual battles taking place between Israeli and Arab forces. In May 1967, Egypt massed its army near the border with Israel, expelled UN peacekeepers, stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1957, and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Other Arab states mobilised their forces. On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt. Jordan, Syria and Iraq responded and attacked Israel. In a Six-Day War, Israel defeated Jordan and captured the West Bank, defeated Egypt and captured the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and defeated Syria and captured the Golan Heights. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem, and the 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories.
Since then Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued including sporadic fights with militias and forces of neighbouring Arab countries. Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel, but most other Arab countries have not.
From 1987 to 1993, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel took place, which included the Declaration of the State of Palestine in 1988 and ended with the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and the creation of the Palestinian National Authority.
In 2000, the Second Intifada (also called al-Aqsa Intifada) began, and Israel built a separation barrier, which caused the number of deaths on the Israeli side to drop by over 90% and on the Palestinian side by over 80%. In the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, Israel withdrew all settlers and military presence from the Gaza Strip, but maintained military control of numerous aspects of the territory including its borders, air space and coast. Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues to be the world’s longest military occupation in modern times.