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How should we respond to the war in Israel and Gaza?

James Mildred

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The following article represents the views and thoughts of its author.

This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15 NIV
Jeremiah 31:15 NIV

It was Saturday last week. Many Israelis were finishing the seven-day-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. Suddenly, sirens blared and echoed around the country just before dawn. But this was no drill. Thousands of missiles bared down on Israel from Gaza, fired by the terrorist group, Hamas. Buildings were decimated. Many, many lives were lost.

Simultaneously, armed Hamas fighters used bulldozers to breach the security fences on the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli soldiers on border posts were taken by surprise and shot down. Hamas fighters also used speedboats along the coast and fired on soldiers and civilians.

The invading terrorists marched into Israel and entered towns, opening fire indiscriminately. Israeli civilians were killed at random. Some were taken hostage, including women, children and the elderly. In other words, the terrorists targeted the most vulnerable in society to act potentially as bargaining chips in negotiations with Israel.

At a music festival, hundreds of young people had been dancing through the night. But what was a disco, became shooting practice for Hamas. They arrived in vans and killed 260 partygoers and abducted others.

In total, more than 2,000 people are thought to have died. Many thousands more are injured.

Journalists from ABC News were able to go into Kfas Aza, a kibbutzim near the Israeli-Gaza border. They saw entire families killed with their bodies lying in the street. Nearly every home was bullet-riddled.

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:2 NIV

As the days since this surprise attack have unfolded, more atrocities have been uncovered. They included the discovery of 40 Israeli babies who had been seemingly been killed by the terrorists. Initial reports suggested they had been beheaded, although the Israeli government has since admitted it cannot verify this. Many are calling this Israel's 9/11, a reference to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers by hardline Islamists. The Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, said it was the darkest day for the country since the Holocaust.

What can we say in response to such evil?

I’m not an expert on the Middle East, or diplomacy and so I write not as an expert, but as a Christian who cares about what happens in God's world. While there’s parts of this whole, awful situation I find hard to understand, I do believe the Bible helps me and equips me to respond. Here then is my imperfect attempt to articulate some kind of response.


Surely the first response must be to lament. In the Bible, lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. It is deeper than mere sympathy or empathy. Lament forces you to pause amidst whatever you’re doing and focus on crying out to God. And part of lament is also confusion. When we're deeply troubled by why God would allow something like this to happen, lament is often the only appropriate response.

Helped by the Spirit's intercession, we pray for peace. We pray for justice. We pray for comfort for those who’ve lost loved ones. We grieve because human beings, including babies and children, made in God’s own image have lost their lives.

We also lament that another war has now started. Wars, of any kind, mean devastation and destruction and further loss of life. Already, Israel is massing more than 360,000 troops on the border with Gaza. What happens if Syria and Lebanon join the fight? What happens if other terrorist groups try and start similar actions elsewhere in Israel or around the world? In our lament, we also pray for de-escalation and for peace to prevail. How can we not?

Com­pletely reject antisemitism

And let our prayers for peace extend to the streets of the UK as well. What’s happened in Israel and Gaza has led to a more than 300% increase in antisemitic incidents here in the UK. Jewish restaurants have been vandalised. Six assaults have taken place. There's been three instances of damage to Jewish property. 66 incidents relate to abusive behaviour and 22 incidents took place on line according to the Community Security Trust, an organisation which represents British Jews on issues of racism and policing. The UK government has felt the need to give an extra three million pounds for security outside Jewish synagogues and even schools. How utterly sad that even some Jewish schools have had to close over concerns for the safety of its pupils.

Part of how we respond as Christians is to reject utterly and entirely any expression of antisemitism as wholly and completely incompatible with God’s design. God calls us peacemakers (Matt 5:9). This means we are active agents in bringing the peace of God to bear in the context where we live. We look for opportunities bring God's shalom to people we encounter. If you live in an area with a high Jewish population, pray for opportunities to reach out.

Pray for Gaza

Our lament must also encompass grief and prayers for those living in Gaza, as well. In war, civilians on both sides suffer enormously. Rockets fired by Israel into Gaza do not discriminate between terrorist and Hamas member and ordinary citizens. In Gaza families have been torn apart by what’s happened. Mothers have lost sons, Fathers have lost daughters. On top of that, there is a growing humanitarian crisis, with Israel cutting off water and electricity. In time, this will lead to the most frail dying first as vital resources run out.

Perhaps you can think of the First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf. His wife is Palestinian. Her parents are trapped in Gaza. They’d gone to visit family in Gaza and when the conflict started, they were still there. Unable to get out, they’ve sent word back home that supplies are days away from running out. Calls for a humanitarian corridor to allow people to safely flee the conflict are surely justified and something we should support. Let’s pray for Scotland’s First Minister and his family because the tension and waiting must be awful.

Be care­ful what you say — and what you read — on social media

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 18:2 NIV

Alongside prayer, I would urge discretion and caution in what we say and read on social media. This conflict is highly polarising. Even churches who enjoy a large measure of unity can be pulled apart very quickly. Some are militantly ‘pro-Israel’, others are militantly ‘anti-Israel’. Perhaps you’ve experienced something of this yourself already; maybe friends have taken to social media, updating their Facebook profile pics, Instagram stories expressing support for one side or the other.

When this happens, you can feel pulled into taking a side, or expressing an opinion, one way or the other. But it’s vital to say it’s okay to admit that you’re not an expert and your knowledge of what’s going on is limited. It’s okay to tell people you want to read and learn before coming to a position. And it's okay to want to find ways of expressing some nuance. Not about the wickedness of what's happened. Not about the horror at loss of life. Not about the fact Hamas are terrorists, committed to the total destruction of the Jewish state. But in terms of what happens now, and how the response plays itself out, there might well be room for nuance.

For example, I think Hamas are terrorists and the BBC is foolish for not saying so. I think Israel has a right to defend itself. I think there is such a thing, in limited circumstances, as a just war. But how do you draw the line between retaliation and self-defence? What proportion of vengeance is acceptable? Is sending hundreds of thousands of troops into Gaza wise? Is cutting off water and electricity which means frail people in hospitals in Gaza will die more quickly an act of justice? These are complex questions.

I would urge all Christians, especially those on social media, to exercise real wisdom and discernment about what you say and how you say it. What might be crystal clear to you, may not be as clear to a brother or sister in Christ. It is one thing to express your opinion, it is another to do so in a way that actually puts a stumbling block in the way of others.

Let's distinguish between those questions on which we can be clear (no, BBC, Hamas are terrorists). And let's be equally honest about the complexity of this situation and not whitewash away the sins of either side.

Pray for sal­va­tion to come to the Middle East

Something I hope all Christians can agree on is the obvious need for the gospel in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and across the whole Middle East. Praise God there are Palestinian Christians, Jewish Christians and believers in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and other countries in the region. But they are a minority. We’re to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and we’re to pray for the work of salvation.

Imagine what would happen in terms of relations between nations if there were revivals and reformations in the Middle East. Imagine what the results would be as churches spring up, made up of Jews and Arabs, singing praise to Jesus together? God’s arm is not too short. We should pray for His mercy to be extended at this time in unparalleled ways.

Remem­ber the ulti­mate hope we have in Jesus

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4 NIV

The conflict and tensions in the Middle East are complex and deep rooted. But amidst the complexity, there is some moral clarity. What the terrorist group Hamas have done is wicked. Israel have human rights, as do other nations. We can and should pray for a response that is proportionate (whilst we may disagree about what is proportionate). And we should pray for wisdom if we engage on social media. But over and above all this, let’s also pray for the gospel to spread in Israel and Gaza.

One thing war and bloodshed do for us as followers of Jesus is leave us longing for a new world. One where there will be genuine, eternal peace between us and God and between nations.

Praise God that day is coming. Come Lord Jesus.

I urge you to lament, to pray for justice, for restraint, for peace and above all, for the gospel of Jesus to triumph. Because, when the gospel triumphs in a nation:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4 NIV

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