I was preaching at St. Andrew’s Galilee – and as a result stayed in the fabulous Scotts Hotel overnight (preachers from Jerusalem get an overnight stay there at the Church’s expense). Its always a pleasure to look out of your window in the morning and see the view over the Sea of Galilee.
At breakfast there were few there – the groups tend to head off good and early, (and after preaching twice on Sunday I didn’t!), so I was sitting in the restaurant eating my omelette when I heard someone from the group at the next table saying “As a Israeli Citizen I say that our government shouldn’t give the Palestinians anything.” I couldn’t help hearing it and a moment later another on the table said, “they give all that money to the Palestinians who just pass it all on to Hamas.” Part of me wanted to ask them if they really believed that – but I didn’t – I noticed a lady on the table looking closely at me and I shook my head. She looked away seemingly embarrassed.
It reminded me of conversations I have had with different Israelis. On a plane coming to Israel for example where the lady sitting next to me expressed highly prejudiced views about Palestinians, and a conversation I had been a part of at Yad Vashem, where again the views of Palestinians expressed were so far removed from what I experience every day.
And then there was an encounter a year or so ago with a young Israeli woman, who said “Isn’t it a pity that Palestinian mothers don’t love their babies.”
I do know that there are some Israelis that know Palestinians and wouldn’t express such prejudiced views about them. I stayed one weekend with a family in Haifa and met a family who all spoke Arabic and who were adamant that Jews, Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis can live together in peace – if only social justice was upheld for Palestinians. However such socially aware Israelis (regarding Palestinians) are rare. The now many years of division between Israelis and Palestinians have left both sides ignorant of each other.
I do believe that one of the roles of the Methodist Liaison Office it to help Palestinians and Israelis to meet each other and so to break down prejudices. Unless this happens, there can surely be no route to peace in this land.