Features

Opportunity to miss an opportunity

"Opportunity to miss an opportunity" Continued...

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

In recent weeks, a gunman opened fire and killed eight students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva religious high school. The school had pioneered the idea of Jews opening settlements in the Palestinian-occupied territories on the belief that God has given that land to the Jews.

After the shooting, Palestinians were reported to be cheering in the streets of the West Bank. Reporters heard Israelis chanting "Death to Arabs" outside the yeshiva where the attack occurred.

Efforts by the Bush administration to negotiate peace talks between Israel and its neighbors have largely been viewed as too little too late. The next U.S. president will have a greater opportunity to launch discussions much earlier with potential to move the ball forward. But few Israelis have faith in current leadership to broker lasting reform.

Nonetheless, travel to Israel is picking up again after a slide following the second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising in 2000-2001. Massive Christian heritage tour groups from Africa, Japan, and the United States line up at the Western Wall, the Dead Sea, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and other famous sites alongside thousands of young people on Birthright Israel trips.

In addition to teaching the history and archeology of the region, the visits remind many of the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Holocaust in Europe during World War II that preceded the 1948 formation of the nation of Israel. And the ubiquitous soldiers around Jerusalem bearing assault rifles are a constant reminder of the political and military tensions.

But developing sympathy for a Zionist expansion is a tougher sell to tourists. Israelis are increasingly seen by many in the world community as oppressors. The nightlife, street markets, and business districts of Tel Aviv are abuzz with activity. High-design furniture, fashion, and jewelry stores are cropping up on a boardwalk along the beach of the Mediterranean Sea, and expensive restaurants are full in designer hotels.

Plainly Israel remains an economic success story, but it is threatened by its own polarization. A winery in the Golan Heights region, for example, is increasing exports but is a symbol of Israel profiting from a territory once occupied by Syria and which poses an obstacle in the peace process.

The ongoing tensions spill over into Christendom as pro-Zionist evangelicals and end-times prophesiers often support Israeli nationalism and militancy, sometimes ignoring the effects on Arab Christians expelled and oppressed in the process.

Paul David Glader
Paul David Glader

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