Every time I hear about violence escalating between Israel and the Palestinians I’m saddened, but not surprised.  There is a cycle of violence there that’s going to be very hard to break.  There has been so much harm done there by both sides that it is hard to see how that cycle can be broken.  Conditions for the Palestinians are so bad, imprisoned in a refugee camp that has been ongoing for well over 50 years, that it seems many people there just want to reach out and hurt someone in Israel.  It doesn’t seem to matter who.  For the Israelis, living with the constant threat of ongoing terror attack, they just want the problem stopped.  So they go after the people doing this to them with overwhelming force.  Who go after them in retaliation the only way they can.  And the cycle continues.

I suspect there is no way out until the Palestinians have a homeland, a sovereign place of their own, and a chance to improve their lives.  And it’s hard to see how Israel can grant this to a people who seem bent on their destruction.  Israelis need a safe place to live.  There is probably no way out until people in Israel feel their security is assured.

I realize that there are people of good will, trying in various ways to break this cycle.  But it seems, from the outside, like all it takes is for someone who wants to keep it going to strike out, from any side, to get the whole vicious circle rolling again.  And from my point of view, there is more than enough blame to go around on all sides.  It’s complicated too.  There are many players, not just two.  There are factions in both Israel and Palestine.  There are outside factions, including various foreign countries, including us in the US.  It’s not simply two clear sides.  And we’re caught in a cycle of violence that any faction seems able to escalate at will.

This doesn’t mean there is not hope.  It was not so many years ago, when I thought of places living in an ongoing cycle of violence, that the two places that popped into my mind were Ireland/Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.  And the Irish problem had been going on for far longer.  It looks like the people there have finally found a way to move forward into better lives together.  And to do that, they had to let go of the wrongs they had suffered in the past (and a need to pay back the ones who hurt them) and look instead to a future where everyone involved had the opportunity to live a better life.  The hope is in the future, not the past.

So here’s hoping and praying everyone involved can find a way to look for a better future.  That doesn’t mean forgetting the past.  But it does mean finding a way to look forward, to move through what has happened in the past and find something new that meets everyone’s real needs.  The demons of the past have to make way to the brothers and sisters of the future.

As a Christian, as a follower of the Prince of Peace, I am called to work for and support this effort.