“Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. He spoke responding to the Obama administration’s sharp criticism over Israel’s recently announced new housing plans for east Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians want for a future capital. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that provocative Israeli land policies in areas claimed by the Palestinians are not in Israel’s long-term interests and undermine U.S. credibility. Netanyahu responded later in the day to the same forum saying that building anywhere in Jerusalem is an Israeli right. Jews had been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years and Israel would continue to do so, he claimed.
Why the fuss over one small city? It’s Jerusalem, the sacred center of three major religions. And like it or not, even in a thoroughly modern and now partially post-modern world, faith still drives the world. Blood may be thicker than water; dogma is thicker than blood. The Bible itself enters this political debate in no uncertain terms. Jerusalem belongs to Israel. It has since King David conquered the city 3,000 years ago. And despite many centuries of occupation, exile and division, by God’s decision and edict, Jerusalem is part of God’s covenant to chosen line of Abraham’s family. Call it inconvenient, unfair, even unjust: The land of Israel and Jerusalem is territory given to the Jews. The land may be sacred to Christians and Muslims as well; it’s to be managed by Israel. Like it or not, God has decided this.
This does not mean that God does not care for Muslims and Christians and in fact all Gentiles of the world. In fact, he promises that one day all people will journey to God’s holy hill (Jerusalem) to worship and to encounter him. But the land itself remains Israel. God has a special blessing intended for the sons and a daughters of Ishmael – the Arabs and all Muslims. He has a blessing for the rest of the peoples of the earth. But none of this changes the fact: Jerusalem belongs to Israel. We would be wise to submit to God’s choice in this matter and to bless Jerusalem and her people with our prayers.
Psalm 122:6 urges us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” We shall.
“God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you have chosen a single people, the Jews to carry your Name and the promise of your favor and blessing. We bless the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We also bless the city you have given to them as the geographic center of this covenant. We bless Jerusalem, the City of Peace, as a place of true peace, and a place governed and managed and cared for by the Jewish people as an international center of worship and connection with you, God of all. We do not understand all your ways or all your choices, but we submit to them. We bless your choice to set Jerusalem under the stewardship of the Jews. We ask as well that you would indeed bless the Palestinian people with their own favor. You promised to bless Ishmael because he too was a son of Abraham. Give them their own home and a place of goodness. Open their eyes to see that they too are offered a covenant connection to their Father God, that in Jesus they too can connect to the favor they so yearn to gain. God, we ask you to once again visit this great and ancient city. We ask that your Spirit will come again and bring peace and blessing and prosperity to Jerusalem. We bless the Israeli people and ask for wisdom and courage as they manage the duties you have given them. And may your One and Only Son be honored there, in the very place he was once mocked and killed. For in Jerusalem Jesus also rose from the dead, and there his own people received power from the Holy Spirit to be new ambassadors of life and light. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, in the name of the Prince of Peace!”