How to understand the “catastrophe” of 1948 and its impact on today’s Israel.
On April 18, the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, Israelis celebrated the 70th anniversary of their country’s founding. On May 14, Palestinians commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), the year they lost their homeland to a foreign invader. Jews look on the events of 1948 as the correction of an ancient injustice; Palestinians feel that Jewish justice was gained at their expense. If 1948 meant the end of Jewish dispersion, it also signaled the start of Palestinian exile.
The clash between these two views captures the basic dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: two national groups, two national narratives, and seemingly no way to reconcile them. For 70 years, the rest of the world has been forced to confront this dilemma and choose a side.
Christians, in particular, want to know who deserves their sympathy and support. For too long, the Christian conversation about Israel has been confined to the realm of theology: Are the Jews still God’s chosen people? Are the promises about the land still relevant? Is modern Israel connected to Bible prophecies? Yet as theologians argue over the details, the conflict persists. Meanwhile, advocates for pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian organizations seem to compete over who can come up with the most insipid spiritual slogan (Bless Israel! Be pro-peace! Pursue justice!), forcing those who crave a more thoughtful response to seek answers on their own.
Lately, evangelicals have become especially interested in the other side. “We’ve heard a lot about the Jews,” they say, “but what about the Palestinians? Who are they? What do they want? How can we help them?” A recent LifeWay Research survey of American …