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According to Psalm 122:6 we are to Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! and, upon my return from a recent trip to the Holy Land, I have a new appreciation for that directive.

Israel, and especially Jerusalem is a messy conglomeration of religious fervor and political division. The socioeconomic differences between Israeli and Palestinian areas are stark. During my stay, I saw hints of the heating up of hostilities that later boiled over. One evening, I was walking with fellow travelers in East Jerusalem. After I tripped on a rock, we noticed lots of single rocks placed strategically in corners and at curbside, ready for throwing. And just days later, rocks were thrown. We also saw riot police dealing with a kerfuffle near the Damascus Gate. Within three days youths were blocking roadways, shooting fireworks at police.

The occasion for the violence — this time — was a “day of rage” called by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His reasons: Israel’s decision to close the Temple Mount, and Israeli security services’ killing of a Palestinian suspected of shooting an Israeli activist who argues that the Jews must have a place of worship there. Adding to the tension: the week before, a Palestinian motorist had rammed his car into a train station — killing two people.

The Temple Mount, holy to 3 religions, is controlled by Muslims. Solomon’s Temple was there. So was Herod’s, where Jesus taught — both destroyed. The Romans built another and it was demolished. The Jews dream is to rebuild a temple there. But, currently, an impressive Islamic edifice sits on that rock. Located next to this shrine is also — Al Aqsa mosque. Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, but not to worship there. Our tour group was allowed up, but not without harassment. Women in our group, all modestly dressed (we’d been warned to wear nothing sleeveless) were forced to cover up even more — some had to purchase Islamic shawls. Israeli police were summoned. From the Temple Mount we heard the voices of Muslim schoolgirls taunting Israeli soldiers.

Three days later, for the first time in 14 years, the Temple Mount compound was closed. The closure lasted just a day.

Israel’s leaders walk a fine line. “It is very easy to ignite a religious fire, but much harder to extinguish it,” Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told his Cabinet. He is promoting housing construction for Jews in East Jerusalem. These settlements, as well as those springing up all over the West Bank, provoke worldwide criticism, but are absolutely necessary for Israel’s security.

Psalm 122:6 and 7 continues: May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers.

Tension in and outside Jerusalem’s towers is perhaps at its greatest since the end of the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising of ten years ago. Yes, we should pray. The tension may subside but will likely never disappear — until the Lord returns.


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