On June 12, 2014 Palestinian extremists kidnapped three Israeli teenagers. Mr. Netanyahu responded with a heavy handed military action. More than 400 Palestinians were arrested and at least five Palestinians were killed. On June 30th the three abducted Israeli teenagers were found dead. On July 2, a couple of Jewish settlers seem to have kidnapped a Palestinian teenager. Later, the teenager was found dead. Now, everyone is angry and violence is escalating.
Few thousand years ago another teenager was kidnapped. Perhaps, his story can help us to address our situation. The name of the teenager is Joseph, the one mentioned in the Bible. No doubt, the Bible condemns abduction. The Old Testament says, “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death (Ex 21: 16; cf Deut 24: 7). The New Testament lists menstealers among a list of lawless and disobedient people (1 Tim 1: 9-10). It is apt now to unpack the lessons from Kidnapping Joseph.
Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers kidnapped him. As we look at the kidnappers we notice the following. They hated him (Gen 37: 4). They refused his dream to rule (Gen 37: 7). They conspired to kill him perhaps because of his dreams (Gen 37: 18-19). They planned to lie (Gen 37: 20) and deceive Jacob claiming that a beast killed Joseph. They were heartless in front of the tears of Jacob (Gen 37: 34-35). It is important to observe that kidnapping has a motive that is rooted in hatred, jealousy, fear, and evil. It is an embodiment of a deeper problem. We don’t need to address only the act but we also need to contemplate the motives that lead people to behave in such a hideous way. As we hear the Israeli or Palestinian news, let us look beyond the words and contemplate God’s plan for creating one family with many nations. Both Palestinians and Israelis are part of the family of Adam and Eve. Their blood is precious in the eyes of God. Further, we need to listen with love and merciful hearts that seek to heal rather than rush to condemn, and to pray instead of cursing. We need to listen wisely avoiding dehumanizing anyone or believing lies. Depriving Palestinians from having their own state on the borders of 1967 and increasing the settlements will only escalate the violence and the pain of both Palestinian as well as Israelis. Denying the dreams of those who seek to live in equality and peace will create an ethnocentric state instead of a state for all of its citizens. Hate will not disappear unless we replace it by love rooted in justice. It is our responsibility as believes to declare love in the face of hate. It is our responsibility to empathize with the mourners on all sides. We cry with both Israeli and Palestinian mothers who lost their children.
Admittedly, the hero of the biblical story is not the kidnappers but the kidnapped, that is, Joseph. There are many lessons that we can learn from him. I will mention only few of them. First, Joseph kept walking with God shunning away from evil. He did not lower his moral or ethical standards even under extreme pressure. Second, Joseph did not deny the dreams of others and he saw their success as a potential blessing (Gen 40: 14). Joseph, further, understood that a dream needs a wise plan in which we prepare ourselves for harsh times (Gen 41: 33-36). He put a plan in which the dream of Pharaoh, for example, became a blessing to more than one nation. Can the Israeli state fulfill its dream without depriving the Palestinians their basic human rights and vice versa? This might be possible if we start with forgiveness. Joseph forgave his brothers and blessed them instead of revenging. Both Palestinians and Israelis need to commit to a language rooted in love not hate, in courage not fear, in appreciation of the other not dehumanizing others, and in forgiveness not revenge. We need to forgive each other for all the atrocities that we committed against each other. We need to spread the prayers of forgiveness and love in all the religious institutions. Perhaps, then we will be able to move forward and create a better future. Perhaps then we can even have a better dream in which both Palestinians and Israelis empower each other!
Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho