from Chapter 8,
And God took Moses up on to a high mountain, and the countries of the world were spread before him, and God asked Moses: Which of these lands shall I give thee for thy people? And Moses (whose speech was not fluent) answered: Ca… Ca… Ca… OK, said God, Canaan it is.
Actually, Moses was looking at Canada.
Like most Christians, I suppose, I had always thought of the biblical Israel not so much as the country of a certain tribe – the Jews or the Israelites – but as a symbol of God’s covenant with his people and his care for them. As a child, like most Christian boys I expect, I identified with David in the Old Testament. I loved hearing from my grandmother the story of the simple shepherd boy who won a great victory against the giant warrior Goliath, and became king.
Recently I heard the story of a journalist who was visiting the West Bank when he witnessed a small boy masked with a keffiyah, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. Fearing that the armed soldiers might harm the boy, he ran after him.
‘What are you doing here, throwing stones?’ the journalist asked. ‘You should be at school.’
‘What school?’ the boy replied. ‘The schools have been closed for months!’
‘Well, go home and help your mum. I bet she doesn’t know you’re out here throwing stones. You didn’t learn that from your parents.’
‘No,’ said the boy, ‘I learned it at Sunday School. I learned it from King David.’
‘And if you hit a soldier, would you do what David did? Would you cut off the soldier’s head?’
‘No, I would help him up and ask him to help me build a home from these stones, where we can both live in peace.’
The Israelis took the image of David’s victory over Goliath to illustrate their fight against the Arab multitudes, and with it they took part of my childhood. Suddenly I was the Philistine of the Old Testament (the words Philistine and Palestine have the same root). In one sense I find this comforting. It at least proves that my claim to this land is at least as old as the Jewish claim. At the time my world fell apart. Suddenly I could no longer relate to the Old Testament. Was I to understand that I was the enemy of God’s Chosen People? Suddenly, to sing the psalms calling of God to strengthen Israel was to pray for him to strengthen my enemy. When I prayed to the Lord of Hosts, I was praying to the God of the Israeli army (the Hebrew term for ‘hosts’ – sabaoth – is the ancient form of the modern Hebrew word tzavuot – armed forces).
…for both Jews and Palestinians, the Bible is not only our spiritual guide, but a record of our history and proof of our roots in the land. We have always lived side by side. How can my presence here now suddenly stand in the way of the fulfillment of the Scriptures? And as a Palestinian Christian am I not also an heir to the Covenant through Jesus Christ, my Saviour? Is there really no room for me here?