Palestine (MNN) – The conflict over land and who owns it is central to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine exists in the middle of this tension. Why is there really so much conflict over land?
Professor Munther Isaac from Bethlehem Bible College explains that land ownership in the Holy Land can be complex. Often, land in this region has been owned by the same family for decades if not centuries.
He says, “In Bethlehem today, we still have neighborhoods and places that are [named] after families from 500 or 600 years ago.”
If this land is taken or fought over it has a big impact on the families living there. Isaac adds, “So if you take [that land], you’re taking a part of our being, our identity.”
Many families living in Palestine have a deep sense of rootedness there and connection to the land.
Complexities of Land Ownership
The biggest complexity, Isaac explains, is the myth of an empty land. It is sometimes thought that the Holy Land was completely abandoned and empty for over 2000 years.
This is not actually the case.
Isaac says, “For many Christians in the West when they think of our land… they imagine a wasteland that was abandoned 2000 years ago and these very people or their descendants came back to an empty land 2000 years later.
“Of course, first of all that’s historically wrong, and second that immediately dismisses and erases 2000 years of civilization and history,” he adds.
He explains that the Holy Land has always been home to many different people groups, religions, and states.
“The land has always been a complex part of those who live in it… To simplify the question to “is this a Jewish land?” ignores that,” he says.
Every Land Belongs to God
The biggest question and conflict around land ownership in the Holy Land is “who owns it?”.
Isaac explains that for those living in the Holy Land a new perspective on this could lead to peace. He says, “When you look at the Bible… the land belongs to God, every land belongs to God.”
“It’s our responsibility in the Bible to take care of whatever land we belong to, for the good of our communities. Lands were always meant to be used not just for the good of the community, but even for the strangers who dwelt among the people of God,” he adds.
When looking at this situation from the perspective that humans can’t own a land that belongs to the Lord, there’s an opportunity to bring peace into the conflict.
One of the biggest ways to do that is by supporting education about what’s really happening in the Holy Land and supporting movements towards peace.
Isaac invites anyone interested to connect with Bethlehem Bible College to visit Palestine and learn more about the region in view of modern history. “Come and study the Bible with us, but in the shadow of modern events with Palestinians, with Israelis, with Christians, Jews and Muslims and see the impact of the theology of lives on the ground,” he says.
You can also pray. Pray for those working towards resolution and coexistence that they may be supported.
Isaac says, “Imagine if Christians invest all of the resources that they have been investing anyways in this land, that it is channeled through peacemaking initiatives, reconciliation initiatives, and schools that promote coexistence.”
Isaac believes this change in perspective will bring peace. “Join us in these efforts.”
Header image courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College.