I hadn’t seen this much blood since two of my teeth were knocked nearly through my cheek during a college intramural football game almost 40 years ago.

It started with a ceiling fan, though not in the way you might imagine. To cut a long story short, while clambering through the attic to check the electrical box for a new ceiling fan I was installing for Samuel, the back of my head banged into a roofing nail, and by the time I crawled back and made it down the ladder, my bloody face looked like something out of a horror movie.

With Samuel’s help I got the bleeding stopped and drove to a nearby Urgent Care with a folded bath cloth pressed tightly against my noggin. In due time, the doctor and I were making small talk as he convinced me that anesthetic wasn’t necessary and squeezed four staples into my scalp.

He asked about my work and I told him I’d just returned with a group of students from Israel and the West Bank. He seemed especially interested about West Bank sites we’d visited, and I told him we’d gone to Bethlehem Bible College specifically because I wanted the students to get a more balanced understanding of the area by hearing the viewpoint of Palestinian Christians who have to live under harsh Israeli restrictions.

He said “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”

It turns out that the doctor’s name was Wasim. Though he was born in America, his parents were from the West Bank town of Hebron. He spends two weeks every year donating medical services in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, or Lebanon. He’d volunteer in the West Bank, too, but because of his Palestinian background, Israeli security won’t let him in.

It was worth a bump on the head to meet him, and I hope he’s on duty when I return to get the staples removed.

Someone recently asked what was the biggest impression the trip made on me, and though I’m always impressed with the powerful sense of history and heritage and walking where Jesus walked, my biggest take from this latest trip was the painful reality of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

It’s far too easy for American Christians who don’t know any history past the first century to assume that Israel has full rights to the land, but it’s just not as simple as saying that Israel owns the land because God gave it to them.

In the first place, if you read the Old Testament, you’ll find more passages about Abraham’s descendants losing the land due to their sin than gaining the land due to God’s promise.

In the second place, thorny political situations just can’t be solved by simplistic appeals to the Bible.

The Jews have been terribly treated and persecuted during the past 500 years, and they deserve some slack, but it wasn’t the Palestinians who persecuted Jews during the Inquisition or who murdered six million Jews during the Holocaust: it was Europeans. During World War II, even America refused to offer sanctuary to Jews who were fleeing Hitler’s pogrom.

I want Israel to have a homeland, but the Palestinians who’ve called the same land home for millennia deserve to have a home, too. The West rightly wants to make up for what has been done to the Jews, but we can’t balance the books on the backs of the Palestinians.

There is no easy fix, and extremists on both sides make it difficult for people of good will to work out a solution.

During the time our group spent in the Holy Land, we were often reminded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That’s a worthy prayer, so long as we remember that Jerusalem belongs to multiple peoples, and peace won’t come to Jerusalem until it comes to all of the land.

We need to pray, certainly, but we also need to become more informed about the whole story, and work for the peace of Jerusalem.

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