The views and opinions expressed in this reflection are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Friends of the Holy Land.


Israel-Palestine - a Personal Reflection from the Rt Revd Michael Langrish

The cycle of violence and retribution is a road to nowhere

Saturday 7 October morning saw an astonishing attack by Hamas on southern Israel.  It involved the extraordinary tearing down of large sections of the security fence that has effectively made Gaza one large concentration camp.  In some places it is ripped down by heavy construction vehicles or blown up.  There then followed multiple raids into Israeli villages and thousands of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. As I write this, 24 hours after the attacks began, more than 700 Israelis have been killed, while Hamas has captured an uncertain number of Israelis and Taken them as hostages into embattled, blockaded Gaza. At least 413 Palestinians have also been killed as Israel formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday, vowing a long campaign as clashes and strikes spread to Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Dare one hope that one positive to come out of this appalling violence and loss of life (with the real casualties on both sides as always being mainly civilians, including children, the old and the poor) might be a refocusing of the world’s attention on the Israel/Palestine conflict, and a renewed effort to broker a long-term solution?

I would like to think that there would be new initiatives but still feel that the prospects are bleak. The US influence seems, in reality, to be very small indeed.  The immediate promises of naval and air forces in support of retaliatory action on Gaza without apparently extracting a parallel agreement to post-hostility peace talks, does nothing to improve that.  The US must surely also re-evaluate the conviction that seems to have driven its recent policy on this area, namely the belief that real steps to peace would come through the Abraham Accords.  The reality is that they have been principally pragmatic business deals between Israel and wealthy autocratic states including the United Arab Emirates, which have had little bearing on the life of ordinary Palestinians, engaged their leadership or added weight to the prospect of any substantial steps towards meaningful talks involving the principal protagonists.

What should be clear to all is that the cycle of violence and retribution is a road to nowhere.  Violence alone cannot lay the foundations for stability and retribution cannot pave the way to peace.  What happened yesterday could in general terms have been foreseen. 2.4 million people, mainly young, living in enforced poverty and isolation, in an area the size of the Isle of Wight and  with no prospects of meaningful employment for many, is always going to be a powder keg waiting to explode.   When so many have nothing to live for, but to kill and to die, it is essential to find a way of allowing them to live for the realistic hope of justice and peace.   Events such as those of this weekend don’t occur in a vacuum, and there is the real danger of further escalation given the daily injustices and brutality of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, the vigilante terror of emboldened Jewish settlers, and the generation-spanning economic blockade of Gaza that has made life miserable for the strip’s 2 million residents, and at this moment is being made worse, with electricity supplies cut off, and hospitals and clinics struggling to do even their most basic work.  More widely, within, Israel itself, the increased nationalism and radicalization within Israeli society have led to more frequent and numerous incidents of hatred, racialized tensions, settler attacks, and incursions onto Muslim and Christian holy sites such as Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Yet, in addition to recognising and dealing with the legitimate concerns and aspirations of Palestinians – any realistic diplomatic process must also face and engage with other issues and concerns.  These include Israel’s need for confidence in long term security and the genuine fears of many Jews given their history and the worrying rise of antisemitism in today’s world; the links between Hamas and Iran, and its dangerous use of proxies in low-level destabilising conflicts across the region; the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Fatah administration in the West Bank.

In the midst of all this are those who form the Christian community in the land of the Holy One.  As those of us who have just returned from the prayer Book Society Pilgrimage will have witnessed, the churches for the most part continue to punch above their weight in seeking to respond to needs in education, housing, social service and health care; in working with partners in all communities for dialogue and better mutual understanding, and in the daily offering of prayer, which is backed by the daily offering of their lives in this place of such simmering conflict and fear.

The one thing that any of us can do here is to support in any way that we can – through prayer, through giving, through lobbying that comes from a genuine desire to study and to understand – to enable the church communities in the Middle East to remain, faithful in prophetic witness and pastoral care, grounded in worship  and the building and nurturing of all who comprise the Body of Christ. Friends of the Holy Land, with its mission is to secure a resilient and enduring community for Christians in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan, along with its partner agencies offer the practical hands of friendship and fellowship that we may extend to our brothers and sisters in Christ at this time.

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which He looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.


— St. Teresa of Ávila (attributed)

 + Michael Langrish


The views and opinions expressed in this reflection are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Friends of the Holy Land.