In early may, Israelis celebrated their nation's 60th anniversary during a time of rapid change. Israel is a prosperous work in progress. Despite its huge defense costs, Israel has achieved a high standard of living. Foreign tourists are flocking back to its holy sites despite the near-daily rocket attacks from across its southern Gaza border.
Israel's high-tech sector is the envy of the region. Recently, Nir Barkat, a technology entrepreneur and now a Jerusalem city councilman, told Christianity Today that he has "outside-the-box" dreams for Israel's largest city: a seven-fold increase in tourism in 10 years, meaning 10 million visitors per year and 100,000 new jobs. Sustainable economic growth in Israel and Palestine, he believes, is the crucial foundation for sustainable peace. "It's a can-be-done task. In spite of all the wars, Israel is a miracle. We know how to overcome," he said.
May the same kind of can-do attitude also spread to the negotiations for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Recently, Christian leaders issued the Joint Declaration on Israel's 60th Anniversary. The declaration calls for Christians to hold "in balanced tension" the responses of Israelis and Palestinians to memories of 1948. It urges "all those who work for peace and justice in Israel-Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God." A just peace among peoples cannot exist in a vacuum. Among other things, it needs the oxygen of religious liberty.
Granted, Israel scores very high for protecting basic freedom of religious belief and worship. As a Jewish and democratic state, the government officially acknowledges Judaism, ...1