On October 7th, 2023, 1200 Israelis were murdered in a Hamas attack. I felt sick to my stomach and angered in my spirit when I read the news.
I lived outside of Jerusalem for several months in 1999. I’ve been back several times since, and I feel a deep connection to the land. Part of that connection is because of my Christian allegiance: it’s the land where Jesus walked and where so much of the New Testament took place. But I’m also passionate about the holy land because of my interest in Judaism. Much of my Ph.D. research focused on the first-century Jewish context of Christianity, and I swear I spent nearly as much time reading Second Temple Jewish literature than I did reading the New Testament.
As I’ve learned more about the tragic circumstances in Gaza right now, I have grown to understand that October 7th didn’t happen in a vacuum. The massacre of Israelis that occurred on this day was horrific. Israel’s response—which has led to the massacre of over 24,000 Palestinians, including nearly 10,000 children—is also horrific. Every day, 10 innocent children undergo at least one leg amputation, some with no anesthesia. And more than ½ a million civilians are facing starvation due to the war.
The whole situation is devastating. And complicated.
Hamas wasn’t created in a vacuum, and violent revolts against Israel don’t happen out of thin air. From the steady migration of Jewish people to Palestine, which led to the unjust Balfour Declaration of 1917; to Western empires exerting their power; to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people in 1947-48, where thousands of Palestinians were either murdered in their homes or driven out of their land; to the wars of 1967 and 1973; to the terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis in the ‘60s and ‘70s; to the bloody and inhumane massacre of innocent Palestinians in 1982; to the largely non-violent Intifada sparked in 1987; to the Oslo sham of 1993 (where colonial oppression was largely affirmed); to more suicide bombings of innocent Israelis; to many other back-and-forth events from then until now—the conflict in Israel-Palestine is incredibly complex, both theologically and politically.
Do Christians have a theological obligation to support the modern state of Israel? Is the modern state of Israel connected to biblical Israel? Do Palestinians or Israelis have a right to the land that they keep fighting over? Who’s the oppressed and who’s the oppressor? Is Israel justified in their attempt to eradicate Hamas? Or are they committing genocide against innocent Palestinian civilians? Does Israel have a right to defend itself? Is all of this Hamas’s fault? Is it possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live at peace and not keep killing each other?
These questions are complicated.
This is why I’m eager to announce that we’ll be hosting a very important Pre-Conference Symposium on the Theology and Politics of Israel-Palestine at this year’s Exiles in Babylon Conference. The Symposium will take place from 12:30pm-3:30pm on April 18th in Boise, ID. You can attend live or virtually.
The speakers will be addressing this issue from different perspectives. We’ll have Daniel Bannoura, a Palestinian Christian pursuing a Ph.D. from Notre Dame; Dr. Gary Burge, a professor emeritus of New Testament at Calvin Seminary; Mike Cosper, a writer, journalist, and director of podcasting for Christianity Today; and Dr. Richard Harvey, a Messianic Jewish believer in Yeshua who has devoted a lot of scholarly attention to the questions as hand.
All four are solid believers in Jesus. All are deeply invested in this conversation. All are incredibly thoughtful and have done an enormous amount of research on the topic. Some things they agree on; others, they don’t, which is why it’s going to be a very fruitful conversation.
You can register for this pre-conference and the rest of the main conference at this link. You have the option to join us in Boise, or stream online. Either way you dont want to miss this important conversation!