I just returned from a week in Israel, which I visited for the fist time. The experience was rich and informative, even if that information was sometimes found in the nuance of the culture. There is a diversity of feelings that accompany the tension of religions, cultures and epochs colliding. It is the epicenter of history and prophecy with contrasting beliefs sprouting up from the same historical realities. There were times that I was moved to tears even while observing practices or traditions that I don’t even agree with.
At the Western wall, I was moved to tears as orthodox jews prayed to the same God I believe in while vehemently rejecting His Son, Jesus, who was a Jew. The story that they embrace is continued in the Testament that I receive yet there is a disconnect after Malachi and before Matthew. Despite the common heritage, there is a chasm in the legacy of 2000 years. Despite our significant differences, I perceived the presence of our common God.
On the other side of that wall is a golden dome on top of a mosque where an entirely different people group reject the beliefs and the people of the original covenant as well as the Newer Testament. The Western Wall is small compared to the enormous separation.
While there is a relatively peaceful coexistence in this country compared to what we perceive by way of the news, there is tension that leads to violence routinely, as well. Jewish waiters with Gentile girlfriends work at Arab restaurants but Israeli armies fight Palestinian forces so routinely that it is expected as “when,” not “if.” One Jewish man I met said, “There is going to be a war here” when referring to Jerusalem and Biblically that is accurate.
We live in an entirely different world, with practically no appreciation for or realization of the centuries old intricacies of that region. Our lens is one of freedom where we don’t think twice about the lack of limitations that are placed on our religious beliefs, practices or preferences. The societal conflicts we have in this country which are rooted in religion pale in comparison to the environment of contention which is managed in the land from which our primary practices of faith were born.
Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate freedom. The cost of freedom was lives and compromises that not only keep us from oppression but even from the tension of the nuance. Christians and others are free to worship in a way that is not automatic, even though our freedom threatens our appreciation for the scarcity of its existence globally. Celebrate the fact that freedom is not only afforded, but that the realities that are just under the surface don’t threaten our enjoyment and feelings surrounding the freedom itself.