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(c) Steve Maltz 2003

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The Land of Many Names
Towards a Christian understanding of the Middle East conflict


In May 2002 I helped to man a stand at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Esher, Surrey. Folk from 21 different ministries were exhibiting under the banner Why Israel? and seeking to open dialogue with other Christians, whatever their background or perspective. Interestingly, my overriding impression from those four days was that the only people willing to discuss the matter were those who shared the viewpoints of the exhibitors. The folk at the Rediscovering Palestine stand observed similar behaviour.

This spoke volumes to me of the vast rift between those who are generally for Israel in the current conflict and those who aren't. It was not dissimilar to the family who see the Christian evangelists at the front door and hide behind the sofa, hoping they haven't been spotted through the window. They think they know what the visitors are going to say, they've heard it all before and they're not willing to start a fresh argument on the subject. 'Why don't they leave us alone?' is the cry. Yet you and I know that hiding your head in the sand is not the best answer when truth, and in this case eternal salvation, is at stake. The trouble is that this family doesn't know it!

Tragically we Christians can be ignorant of our own blind spot, our unwillingness to see the other point of view. One side would stress that Christians should pursue justice and righteousness and, as with apartheid in South Africa, should side with those whom they see as the oppressed and downtrodden, the Palestinians. Others, equally motivated by the Bible, would agree in principle, but would stress God's integrity and faithfulness in terms of Old Testament covenants in relation to the land as God's promise to the Jews. How can there be such a division between Christians on such a vital issue?

How many times have you been approached by someone and asked the question 'So what do you think about what's happening in the Middle East?' How frustrated have you been in your inability to string together a few coherent words, let alone a solid, robust argument to support your views? You are not alone. Hours of study and a PhD are the minimum requirements here for a full understanding of the intricacies and subtleties of a situation that doesn't even have a history people can agree on!

No issue has split the Christian world more than the Israel/Palestine conflict, yet there is no current issue as confusing. Millions of words have been written and spoken about it, but how much of it has truly sunk in, how much of it has made sense, how much of it has been untainted by personal opinion or editorial slant? Jews and Zionists will tell you one thing and Arabs and Arabists will tell you the opposite! Surely they can't both be right, surely there can only be one truth, one set of proven historical events that can unravel the whole mess? Unfortunately it isn't that straightforward. The situation is so complex, puzzling and emotionally charged that it is well-nigh impossible to get an objective viewpoint - it is exceedingly difficult to find historical sources with no axes to grind, commentators who could be accepted as truly impartial.

Even now you have probably got an idea of where I'm coming from and, if you haven't, I'll give you a little clue: I am an English Jew who discovered Jesus, my Messiah, some 16 years ago. This makes me biased, yes? No, because, for a Christian, the truth must always come first, despite the consequences. So the signature verse for this book is:

'God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth' (John 4:24).

Nothing is more important than absolute honesty in our worship, in how we present ourselves to God, in all our thoughts and actions. Being true to the Spirit who indwells us is paramount, and a vital part of this is our quest for the truth in all situations.

I ask you not to judge me before you have read what I have to say. Instead feel free to judge me by the fruits of what you do read. If you are left with a deeper understanding of the heart of God, a new commitment to prayer and a new, or refreshed, love for both Jewish and Palestinian people, then the fruit is good. My earnest desire is to understand God's truth about the situation in the Middle East and then to share it with others. There can only be one truth, one authentic script for the ongoing drama. The time is coming when we will all have to take a stand on this key issue and I hope that this book will provide a useful signpost for you.

With regard to the subject of this book, people tend to fall into three groups: those who believe that Israel has in some way a divine mandate; those who believe that Israel has no divine mandate in any way; and those who haven't got a clue about the matter because people in the other two groups seem equally persuasive. This book has been written for all groups, to clear away the cobwebs and to provide you with sufficient information for an informed opinion on the subject.

If, having read this book, you are still confused, then I have failed. If, having read this book, you are not spiritually invigorated and challenged, I have also failed. This is a hot topic. God doesn't want you to be lukewarm; He wants people to be His witnesses, not just to other Christians but to the world out there that has absolutely no clue what is going on and has no Rock to hold on to. What better way to introduce people to this Rock than to show them exactly who is in charge of a world situation that, humanly speaking, has no workable solution?

The Land of Many Names by Steve Maltz, is published by Authentic Lifestyle for ?7.99. ISBN 1-86024-287-1
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