Sunday, 18 November 2012

12 Steps in the Middle East

In 1966 - I remember the year because we were in Istanbul when England won the football World Cup - our family travelled overland in a black Ford Consul 375 to Jordan and Israel. Then the city of Jerusalem was divided between the two countries, and you had to cross, one way only, through the Mandelbaum Gate - which meant, incidentally, that we had to leave behind my brother, who'd just returned from Iran, in hospital to return on recovery with our mother by air. We met Arabs and Israelis, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Unhampered by official guides, we were free to go where we would.

Then less than a year later came the Six Day War, an extraordinary military success for Israel against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, probably not best understood from Wikipedia, which resulted in a vast expansion of Israeli-held territory. I relate my '66 experiences not to qualify me as expert, but rather to explain my interest in that region and explain my lack of clarity about it. It seems to me that anyone who pretends fully to understand the rights and wrongs or to know the answer to the Israeli/Palestinian problem is deluded. Today the Archbishop Cranmer blog fired a broadside at the prevalent liberal orthodox view in Rich powerful Jews annihilate poor innocent Palestinians. And I have to agree that it apparently takes a well-directed Israeli drone attack on the top Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jamari (I can't remember whether we are supposed to regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation or not at present. It's certainly intent on destroying the nation state of Israel), to remind the BBC and other news organisations of the 800 missiles and mortars launched from Gaza this year into Israel. So I take Cranmer's point.

Clearly war will not prove to be the solution to the intractable problem. The Arab states' unwillingness to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and Israel's stubborn determination to exist seem to create a formula for perpetual conflict. It would take a massive amount of international repentance (including by the UK - for its [mis]handling of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, for instance) to form any foundation for peace negotiations.

However I suspect the only hope for the parties apparently addicted to violence (including us) is the recognition of their need for a "greater Power" and something like Alcoholics Anonymous's Twelve Steps:
  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

    For "alcohol", read violence, and for "alcoholics" read warmongers. And the whole document makes great sense in this context. The Middle East is indeed "unmanageable" and does need a greater Power to restore "sanity".

    The beauty of this part of the world is haunting - and so is its pain. Ironic, isn't it, that in five weeks' time millions worldwide will be singing about a future "when peace shall over all the world / its ancient splendours fling" remembering events in this region over two thousand years ago? We should pray that it might be so.                                                                     
  • 1 comment:

    1. Thank you for your great 'insight' Michael - incredibly powerful reading.
      I am praying for the so needed peace - may God intervene, as I believe HE is the only answer in this incredible mix of emotions that date back to ??? Do you think Jesus is on His way back?
      May we all find HIS peace in the fast approaching season of 'Good Will'.