Israel is never a boring place. This time of year, especially, is filled with events, memorials, and occasions to stir the slumbering soul. During the past 30 days we have witnessed the festival of Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, and Israel’s Independence Day (see a colorful video here). In further events, part of Jerusalem’s water supply was contaminated two weeks ago, an uncharacteristically late rain storm fell on Israel last week, and hate crimes against Christians, Muslims, and Druze continue to rise (200% in the last three months).
This last bit of news has been cause for concern here in Israel for the past six years. The attacks are termed “Price Tag” because often at the site of the crime, whether arson, vandalism, or property destruction, the criminal will leave a graffiti message “Price Tag” alluding to the price that must be paid for interfering with Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The attackers are believed to be extremist settler youth. For more information on the nature, history, and list of attacks, here.
Initially, Palestinians and mosques were the targets, but later Christians and churches also became prey. The fellowship where many of JCF’s staff attends, Narkis Street Congregationat the Baptist House in Jerusalem, was hit in February, 2012. For more photos, here. The attackers left messages spray painted on the church’s walls such as “Death to Christianity”, “Jesus is dead”, “Jesus son of a whore”, and "We will crucify you." The latest Jerusalem church attacked was last week. Azar Ajaj, a Christian Arab leader in Nazareth, has recently posted a challenging call to all followers of Jesus to consider what their prayerful response should be towards these menacing actions.
The attacks continue unabated, and the Israeli government so far has not directed its full energies to halt the hate. Sunday night, there was a Jewish, Muslim, and Christian protest in Jerusalem in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s house demanding a serious response from the government. For a video of the protest, here.
Vered Goldfarb of Jerusalem, a participant at Sunday night’s protest, said:
“I think when people are silent we encourage negative behavior, and it’s going to boomerang against all of us,” she said. “In the first chapter of Isaiah he brings a prophecy that our external religious behavior is worthless unless we bring justice to our society. I think that’s relevant today.”
So, too, as we pray for Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East, let us be reminded of those words from Isaiah,
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way;
when you offer your many prayers,I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood.
Wash! Cleanse yourselves!
Remove your sinful deeds from my sight.
Stop sinning! Learn to do what is right! Promote justice!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow!
Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD.
“Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become white like snow..." (Isa 1:15-18a)