Because I am a San Franciscan, I need my windows open at night, to feel the cool winds. The downside is to clearly hear the 3:45 AM call to prayer from a nearby mosque high on a hill 100 yards away. And because it is Ramadan it is not just a normal 5 minutes but 12 minutes of sung prayers and poetry. A pillow, well-placed, almost does the trick.
I just read “again, for the first time” Genesis through Esther, (the more narrative, rather than poetic or prophetic books). What struck me was the two competing voices for how to contend with the land they believed God promised. The first is the voice of triumphant victory over the enemies of God, violently wiping out all children, animals, towns; cleansing the land of all uncleanness – to be possessed only by the Hebrews. The second voice is more practical, recognising the reality on the ground – that they were a small, weak community living among many established nations, therefore the need for countless rules and prohibitions, which in the end were faintly followed, such as prohibition of intermarriage or worship of local gods, even to the point of child sacrifice. So much for purity – it lost out to the melting pot. After arrival they fought against each other and consistently turned against the Lord God. It is a tale of brokenness, failure and false heroes.
The voice of purity and exclusivity lost out to the voice of reality and engagement. So too are the current Israeli voices. Some call for purity, some for mixing. Which voice will dominate. The new call for a Jewish state (not Israeli state) by Netanyahu, calls for a pure, exclusive, non-democratic state.
Below is a pure, exclusive Jewish settlement. According to international standards, they are illegal. This is Har Homa, seen from Bethlehem, with over 20,000 residents living on Palestinian land within the 1967 “green line”, which Israel claims as theirs.
There are 22 settlements like this surrounding Bethlehem, with more to come, like former Israeli military base Ush Ghurab, visited by hardline settlers who repainted the abandoned buildings, planted trees and raised Israeli flags. Locals fear that they will begin to sleep at and expand the site with caravans, then services – electricity, water, roads – and eventually permanent homes. This is a familiar pattern of how radical settlements, unauthorized, but allowed by the Israeli state, take shape. You can see that they will soon cut off Bethlehem.