I am a Palestinian Christian Arab as well as an Israeli Citizen.
These facets of my identity often clash. This clash reaches a peak during war between my people (the Palestinians) and my country (Israel).
The clash is not just a theoretical/academic one that brings amusement and maybe even curiosity for an intellectual exercise. It is a tangible one. It has consequences and a felt impact on my life here.
In a time of war (like the one going on now between Israel and Hamas in Gaza now), each side of the war expects unity and full recruitment in its camp. No dissenting voices are tolerated. This is a minority-free country during war. Everyone is supposed to support the fighters unequivocally.
Israel expects Israeli Arab Palestinians like me to express support of the Israeli troops in their attacks of Gaza or at least to keep silent. In their turn, Palestinians expect that their people (even those who are also Israeli citizens like me) to show support through demonstrations, protest and maybe even help with relief. It is a matter of life and death and everyone is required to contribute. You should prove your loyalty. Without even saying it explicitly, but you are asked to be pro-active: to support , to pray for , to sympathize, to condemn, to denounce, to express outrage…The question is: to whom?
All this happens in a time when tension is very high. Media is displaying difficult scenes of killed children or young soldiers or displaced families or people in shelters. Social media too brings an endless flow of videos and pictures from the war. All of this breaks the heart and you not only want to express your thoughts but you need to vent and vent loud... However even this involves a dilemma! What will be the consequences of what you may say?
Among its many flaws- Hamas’ rule is a ruthless dictatorship. Luckily we are not under their rule.
On the other hand-Israel has always prided itself with being a place where the right of expression was exercised. In recent years there has been a major setback in that regard. There is much less tolerance towards nonconsensual views (and Arab Palestinians in Israel naturally hold such views). In times of war- this margin of freedom of expression is narrowed more, which adds to the dilemma and dichotomy of Arab Palestinian Israelis (both Muslim and Christian).
Unfortunately this dilemma is not appreciated by most Israelis during war. They expect their citizens, including the Arab ones,
to ignore their national feelings and the long history and just stand for Israel too.
Israel “enjoys” a lot of interest around the world and people worldwide express their views-with either side . The views are often poorly based. Sometimes they are one sided and can affect our life here if adopted by the policy makers.
So you live in a war zone. You are involved emotionally because of a bloody conflict between your nationality and citizenship.
Everybody else has the freedom to express their minds but you are suppressed.
What do you do? Can you ignore your feelings and natural inclination to express them or say the truth as you see it?
Thankfully one of the facets of my identity is “Christian”. I am not referring here to the sociological use of the term but to the faith related one.
Emotions and views are bubbling in our hearts ready to burst but our Christian faith has a higher calling. As followers of the prince of peace we can’t afford ignoring the important role of peace making. This role doesn’t contradict the prophetic voice we are asked to hold too. It is a voice that will expose the truth even if that requires paying a price.
This is a challenge that the true followers of Christ in this land should take and they need all the help they can get from the worldwide church that hasn’t been of much help up till now.
The special but difficult place that God has put us in brings with it a unique opportunity- promoting a much needed culture of peace through words and deeds. It also involves seeking a just peaceful solution in this precious land for the sake of the prince of peace.