FT: When did you become aware of the
SM: As a child on the streets of the city
[now renamed Lod], I remember walking
with my father past the city hall where he
said, “This is where I grew up.” Because
my grandfather’s house was big, the Israeli
army made it their headquarters and then
later the city hall. But my parents did not
tell us the stories. It’s very typical that
people go through traumatic events and
don’t talk about it.
In Jewish high school they taught that
the land was desert and the Jews came
and made it green. But wait, I thought. I
know that my great-great-grandfather used
to export the great Jaffa orange. And my parents did not leave their homes voluntarily.
They were ordered out and terrible things
The Jewish-Zionist historical narrative made me ask questions of God and
my parents. “What really happened?”
Then they opened up, but it was painful. My father’s concern was that if we
When you’ll be able to retire...
Making a budget and sticking to it...
starting January 7th
for 15 and 52
Your conversation begins at MSCU,
where faith and finances meet.
local | secure | trusted Your investment specialists
dwell on that or if he tells us what
happened, we will grow up with
FT: How do you respond to the
Naqba so many years on?
SM: More and more people right
now are talking about the Naqba.
It was suppressed. You were not
allowed to talk about it during my
teenage years growing up in Israel.
Right now there is a revival of interest.
A Jewish lady from England
shared with me the story of her
father, Josef Ben-Eliezer, who
was a Holocaust survivor [from
Poland and Germany]. He found
refuge in Mandatory Palestine [in
the 1940s]. He joined the Haga-nah [one of the Jewish militant
groups], and he was one of the
soldiers who conquered my hometown of Lydda. And what he saw
and experienced in several places made
him later [return to Europe] for reconciliation with the German people for what they
did. In that process he became a believer
in Jesus. “He is an old man,” his daughter
told me. “He wants to make amends for
what he did in Lydda.”
PHO TO: DAVID LYON
[When she and her father came to
visit] I introduced Josef Ben-Eliezer to my
father. It was a shocking experience for
me because my father never talked about
that. Ben-Eliezer shared his story, but my
father’s memory was better than his. My
father asked which unit he was in and
responded to the information, “Oh, your
unit was positioned here exactly.” So Ben-Eliezer was at the checkpoint when the
people were being driven out. They were
checking people for money as the Palestinian refugees were passing.
Ben-Eliezer caught the eye of a Palestinian teenager and that brought to his
memory the early 1940s in Poland and
Germany where he had been checked by
SS soldiers and his parents had hidden
money on him. That was a traumatic experience for him.
FT: What is life like for Christians in the
SM: Until 1948 the Christian community
used to be 24 per cent of the population.
With the formation of the State of Israel, 60
per cent of the population became refugees.
Palestinian Christianity became two per
cent of the population. After the war, the
headquarters of the Christian church was
separated from the community because
East Jerusalem was on the Jordanian side.
The major reason Christians left the
land was economic and social pressures
as a result of the political situation, not
because of religious persecution. Right
now Christians are increasingly finding
themselves caught between two major
ideological camps. One is what I call “
Occupation Israel,” the Zionist movement
that American Christian Zionism supports. The other movement, coming as a
response, is the Muslim Brotherhood.
You are marginalized increasingly
and you feel like you’ve been caught between two huge icebergs that are coming
in against each other. So right now the
Christian community has a great opportunity to come with the message of the
Kingdom of God, not only for the Jews and
Palestinians, but also to the still-existing
FT: When Canadian Christians visit the
Holy Land, do they meet Palestinian
SM: The majority come on a pilgrimage to
see the holy sites. We joke about it as Palestinian Christians – they come to see the
dead stones and they leave without seeing
the living stones.