Saturday, February 7, 2015

A history of holiness and war

One of the many, many contested political questions about Israel is whether Jews have some historic claim to live there. Debating this question involves looking back over more than 2000 years of history, and trying to assess the claims of both Jews and Muslims to this land.

It's worth looking at this history, and I know only a very little about it now, but I think that ultimately what it proves is probably only that both Jews and Muslims have longstanding claims to this land. (That's not trivial, but it doesn't get us far on deciding today's questions.)

There is another lesson from this history, though, and that is that this small area (Israel is similar in size to New Jersey) has been fought over again and again. Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Mamlouks, Ottomans, and the British have all held sway over the area, until defeated by rebels or by the next conquerors from outside. It's true that much of human history probably would look this way if we knew all the details; in Israel, where every step you take enters a new historical site, the details are more clear. But I suspect that the passions this area has engendered have made it even more the subject of struggle and war than many other places have been.

This land that is holy to so many doesn't have much of a history of the peace that holiness might be thought to bring. And its history makes it hard to believe that any arrangement there is likely to be permanent. In a way that is liberating; arrangements may change -- life will go on.

No comments:

Post a Comment