The Holy Land is precious to North American Christians, but it is also highly confusing. Unlike believers who live in the region, we find it difficult to comprehend the wedge of resentment between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Peace accords seem to last only through the ceremonies at which they are announced, and televised images of bloodshed terrify us. Retaliation after retaliation, we wonder if it will take the Second Coming to end the violence in the Holy Land. It may be impossible to evaluate the situation in a purely objective manner. But those immersed in the conflict can give us insight into the issues that plague the land that holds so much sacred history.

The following account comes from Palestinian Christian and human-rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, who moved his law practice from Wall Street to Jerusalem 20 years ago.

Many Christians and others concerned about peace in the Middle East lament the breakdown of the peace process and the recent outbursts of violence. We correctly fear that widening hostility, with overtones of religious warfare and animosity on a worldwide scale, will take over the entire region.

Yet in mourning the collapse of the peace process, we need to understand the situation preceding Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount on September 28. It is simply too easy to blame Sharon for igniting the powder keg, or to blame Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for not doing enough to contain the protests. Instead, we need to ask, What was going on that ignited so much anger and frustration?

Stalled process During recent years, the sequence that began with such high hopes for an end to occupation and a historical reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians had quietly degenerated ...

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