This suffering afflicts both Christian and Muslims. The Lighthouse School experienced the death of two students (brothers) in their home. Israel bombed the home of Christian Jalila Ayyad, killing her. Her son, Jeries, lost his legs and an arm. Jeries used to attend Baptist youth meetings.
Does Israel have a right to exist, and should Palestinians say so?
Absolutely, yes, and Palestinian leaders need to say so.
What do you say to American Christians who support Israel?
As Christians in Palestine, we love the Jewish people. When the Lord changed our hearts, he gave us love for all people. I hope my brothers and sisters in the West also have enough room in their hearts not just for Israel but also for the Palestinians.
See the other side of the coin. In 1948, the state of Israel was founded, and more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees, and 50,000 to 55,000 of them were Christian. They scattered around the world, some to Gaza and the West Bank. They went to Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Many still live in very difficult circumstances.
Sometimes my brothers in the West say, “This land is promised to the Jewish people; get over it.” But I would say, what would you do for the people who lost their homes and land in 1948? We have official documents to prove our ownership of the 17 acres my father’s family lost. If we talk about a God of justice and love, how to explain this to the Palestinians who lost their homes and land to Israel?
Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll down like river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.” And Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord required of you to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
How should you extend this love to these Palestinians Muslims and Christians who lost their land? You cannot just say that God gave the land to the Jewish people. To love the Palestinians, you must understand their struggle. I see people go too far to support the Jewish people; others go too far to support the Palestinians.
Extend love not just to one side, but to both.
What I say to the church in West is this: There are churches and believers on both sides. Let us focus on the Kingdom of God among the Palestinians and the Kingdom of God among Jewish believers. All of us Christians in the East and the West belong to one body: the body of Christ. Bless the body of Christ in this region.
We can be a blessing to each other and learn from each other and enrich each other’s lives. May we have enough space in our hearts for the Palestinians, the Christians, and the Jewish people. For the bigger circle, we do what we can to help people stop killing each other and to live side-by-side with love and respect.
What should Christians be calling for?
Usually, war and military might will not solve problems. The best way is to sit and find a balanced solution. But as a Palestinian Christian, I go to Gaza and see the siege that Gazans live under from the sky, land, and sea.
I have never been in prison, but I lived in one when I was in Gaza. Gaza has become a huge prison. Life there has been very difficult. Fishermen can go only three miles into the water. Unemployment is oppressive. Gaza is 30 miles long, 7 miles wide, with 1.8 million people. People die because they can’t get the medical treatment they need because of the siege and they’re not able to leave. They also have been affected by the problems between Egypt and Hamas. The people of Gaza need the borders to be opened.