All said and done, Israel seems currently fighting for its survival as a people and a nation, independent and truly sovereign, an entity legal and political which they have gained for themselves after a gap of almost two thousand years, living in exile in different parts of the Globe, once Jerusalem fell and the Church of Jerusalem fully destroyed. Jerusalem is, indeed, holy and solemn, serene and sacred a city not only for the Jews but also for all the Christians born and baptized since they too truly deem it their Holy Land as Lord Jesus is believed to have lived and taught, crucified to death and had risen from the dead on the third day in Jerusalem itself. Hence, any war or violence in Jerusalem deeply hurts and pains the faithful Christians too as the place is sensitive and sentimental to all believers, Jewish or Christian. This is the fact and the truth and an undeniable historical reality down the generations. Writes Dr. Cyriac Thomas
Israel is certainly more than a mere name in the History of the World and in the very Story of our Human Civilization. Tradition tells that for the Jews Israel is the very name of the chosen people of the Lord, the Great Creator whom the race used to address as Jehovah, by which they meant the all-powerful and the almighty. This was the unbroken chain of faith of the Jews as a people for generations to date. The Christians also hold and truly concede that Lord Jesus too was a Jew by his blood and race, birth and nationality, and certainly assert that Jesus of Nazareth as the most celebrity Jew ever born in the tribe. However Jesus was deemed different and unique as he was not a traditionalist nor was a person in the conventional frame or mindset either in his social vision or outlook but, indeed, a genuinely true revolutionary of the first order who by his teachings and sermons very daringly attempted to change his contemporary society upside down. He pleaded for replacing the” Old Testament” of the Jews and its social and spiritual stipulations by a “New Testament” of love and fellowship, forgiveness and compassion instead of the creed of violence, hatred and revenge which was in a way an accepted code of social frame and conduct those days. The post Jesus Jewish Christians believed Jesus Christ as the only Son of God who was sent by the Lord to the world to redeem the very human race from the consequential loss of the Paradise owing to the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by eating the forbidden fruit .
Thus, Jesus was hailed by the Christians as their savior and lord as they believed in his mission of redemption through Jesus’s very birth, life, crucifixion, death and his resurrection. This is, indeed, the crux of the Christian faith despite the different denominational divisions of the church and the faithful under different umbrellas of faith and traditions.
Though the Christians, down the centuries, had kept in their heart of hearts a prejudice of attitude and a strong feeling of heartburn because they believed for so many generations that the Jews were , as a race, behind the rudely criminal crucifixion of Lord Jesus , with the support of the then Jewish high priests even when the Roman Governor Pilate was convinced of the innocence of Jesus which made Pilate wash his hands in public to keep himself clean off from the responsibility of indicting Jesus and sentencing him to die on the cross, under the pressure of the surging crowd. Pilate seems to have been evidently got much frightened and was apprehensive of the anger of King Herod as also of the wrath of the Imperial authorities in Rome if Jesus was set free since the High priests in Jerusalem were raising even charges of sedition against Jesus when he was formally tried by Pilate in the Governor’s palace.
The crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem then became the line divide between the Jews of the old school and the new creed of Jewish Christians who do adorn Jesus as their risen Lord whom they believe a true living entity forever. This remains still the main faith divide between the two sects despite the racial and cultural affinities claimed by both shades.
History also unfolds a chain of mysterious stories of foreign captivity of the Jewish race for centuries (in Egypt) and the ever celebrity leader of the Jews, Moses the great, and his powerful successor Joshua heroically bringing them back to the land of their forefathers through the desert and the waters. Moses through the power of the mighty set his long march to bring his people back from their Egyptian captivity to the promised land of their rightful claim, which they believed and hailed the very land of milk and honey, promised by the Lord to their ancestors. It strangely took decades for Moses and Joshua to bring their people back to their homeland.
However, their life and freedom as a people and a nation appear short-lived only. History stood itself a silent witness to the destruction of their only “Church” as they deemed the Church of Jerusalem as the holiest one as it was believed to have been built by their ancestors under Divine Instruction, built brick by brick, taking decades to complete in shape .All other places of worship of the Jews were called only synagogues or just prayer halls as Jerusalem was their only church, sacred and holy. True, it was King David’s life ambition to build the Church of Jerusalem, but God the Lord seemed to have willed it otherwise, extending that privilege and blessing and honor to King Solomon instead of King David. These are historical stories and faith traditions of the Jews and also those hail from that common cultural and spiritual heritage including the Christians.
One of the most brilliant of the races the world has so far seen and a species known for their extraordinary brilliance down the centuries, the Jews whom the holy scriptures address as “Israel” or the Chosen People of God, unfortunately got shattered to different corners of the World once the Church of Jerusalem fell and got smashed to the ground as Jesus himself prophesied while alive. Strangely Israel as a people and the Jews as a nation was no more on the surface of the earth as a political entity to be reckoned with for almost two millenniums. The World hated them like anything, persecuted them wherever and whenever it was possible for their enemies or detractors to do so — haunting them, torturing them, and even robbing them of whatever little assets they had with them. Life for them in any part of the World was nothing but misery, suffering, subjugation and abject humiliation for the race of Jews as a people of identifiable spiritual and cultural entity. Still they kept their moral code and their spiritual faith in whichever part of the World they had to go and live.
Wherever they made their presence felt, they also made it so with their high quality of the brand they claimed to represent and the integrity of character they scrupulously preserved and maintained although their lives and conduct wherever they have lived and wherever they have gone as a people in exile.
In fact, India was a place they found and experienced different while in trade or in exile. The very story of St. Thomas, a close disciple of Jesus Christ who is believed to have travelled down from Palestine to Kodungallur in Kerala to connect himself with the Jewish settlers here as part of his faith mission is a historical tradition upheld by the Syrian Christians down the generations. The Jewish settlers here and the Christians baptized by St. Thomas lived in India with an exemplary dignity and a rare range level of social and cultural elegance. In India the Jews had their synagogues in fact and prayers regular on their days of sabbath without any hindrance whatsoever. The probable Hindu rulers in the early centuries seemed to have had never intervened in the faith matters of the different sects, living here in peace and fellowship –the Buddhists, the Jews, the Christians, the Jains or the Muslims. In Kerala, of late, the Koder & Co in Mattancherry and Cochin and the Spencers in Kollam and Trivandrum made their brand and seal of quality as the best available one for generations of time. Numerically small of course they were , and even locally confined often, they made their brand incomparably the best and number one by all standards of measurement.
Then came the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Europe in general and in particular in Germany during the Second World War when Millions of them were sent to gas chambers, all innocent civilians just because of the blatant prejudice of the Nazi regime and the unimaginably inhuman cruelties they inflicted on a civic race. Hitler was, on no count, better than King Herod in committing cruelties which the World had to helplessly bear witness to though in different times of history. However, the end of the War and the surrender of the Nazis and the victory of the Allied Powers seemed change the destiny of a race, consistently subjected to a hitherto unknown range of inhuman cruelties, denying them not only their civil rights but even their basic human rights. Finally, the Western powers and the Soviet Union agreed in principle to carve out a strip of land in Palestine for the returnee refugees of the Jews from different parts of the Globe to have a nation of their own in their original homeland.
It was only natural that the Palestinian Muslims and many of the Arab nations tried their best to initially resist even the very idea of a nation for the Jews, however small the territory of the new nation might be. Arab nations even declared an open war on Israel, despite the Western powers and the USSR extending their defense to the new nation of Israel. The fight between the Palestinian Muslims and the Israeli soldiers continued for some more years, but finally a few of the Arab nations themselves had shown their inclination for a truce and peace with Israel once they realized that Israel had no other option but to resist forcefully the Palestinians as it was the only way out for them to survive as a nation in the days ahead.
Even Arafat, though initially only subtly but rather gradually gracefully, conceded Israel’s right to exist. This provoked some of the Palestinian fighter groups like the Hamas to sabotage even the peace efforts of Arafat for a possibly peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue as such. Hence it remains still a thorn in the flesh in the Gaza strip despite all efforts for goodwill and peace by most of the nations far and near of Israel and of Palestine too.
Currently, the concern of the World seems to have come to the issue of the continuation of the acts of violence, and the apparently unending confrontations, affecting the very lives of innocent civilians on both sides as also the destruction of the living abodes and other assets and properties in Palestine and Israel as well.
The fact is that the UN has all these years been playing its game of a hide and seek committing a criminal lapse on its part, failing miserably to effectively intervene on the issue whenever there happened an escalation of violence or war, leading to air bombardment. There is no denial of the fact that the UN is simply repeating the same sin of its commissions and omissions of its unpardonable lethargy and inaction in the current crisis too as what the WHO had also done recently when the three forth of the World happened to be under the very grip of the pandemic virus! It is sad that the UN and all its related organizations often act only on their convenience when frictions show their ugly face on the surface, unfolding untold miseries on either side. This is a civil sin of the first order. Certainly, more than that it is a political sin and a moral sin too.
It is an undeniable fact and truth and a lesson history has well taught us that peace without justice can never endure for long in any part of the world. It is in this backdrop of the current crisis, disrupting the peace and sleep of the world that we all have to probe the possibilities for a lasting peace and truce by bringing the thorn out of the flesh. And let all the peace loving nations of the world daringly come forward to logically and rationally identify what all the options are left with those who wish to be on the right side of the divide.
It is well said and rightly upheld that the highest moral sin one could commit is when one -keeps himself or herself neutral, as and when situation warrants him to be on the side which is just and right. Of course, it has to be conceded that truth also can be often relative, depending on situations, facts and realities confronted with. God alone is and certainly He alone can be the absolute truth. But truth is always truth whether relative or absolute.
All said and done, Israel seems currently fighting for its survival as a people and a nation, independent and truly sovereign, an entity legal and political which they have gained for themselves after a gap of almost two thousand years, living in exile in different parts of the Globe, once Jerusalem fell and the Church of Jerusalem fully destroyed. Jerusalem is, indeed, holy and solemn, serene and sacred a city not only for the Jews but also for all the Christians born and baptized since they too truly deem it their Holy Land as Lord Jesus is believed to have lived and taught, crucified to death and had risen from the dead on the third day in Jerusalem itself. Hence, any war or violence in Jerusalem deeply hurts and pains the faithful Christians too as the place is sensitive and sentimental to all believers, Jewish or Christian. This is the fact and the truth and an undeniable historical reality down the generations.
However, the strip of Gaza, occupied by the Palestinians and their warring groups, fighting against Israel and vice-versa, with their shells and missiles bombarded both ways is a fact known to the World and the UN. But perhaps on ideological pretentions, it appears that Israel is more often targeted not only by the Palestinian fighting groups like the Hamas but by even some of their supporting nations as well as an aggressor, and the Palestinians always pictured and painted as the victims of the ongoing battle in the region. The fact remains that out of their inherent hatred and fury and their depth of intolerance towards the Jews and their one and the only nation Israel, the world seems to be often brainwashed by the fighting Palestinians and their allies with their intensive propaganda against Israel round the Globe. Even when an innocent Indian housewife, Soumya Santhosh who had gone to Israel just for a living to support her family lost her life consequent to a torrential rain of missiles targeting civilian residential and office buildings indiscreetly dropped by the Palestinian fighter groups from Gaza, it was certainly a sad and painful tragedy which hurt and pained the Indian sentiments deep, beyond the political or ideological divide. However it caused a confusion in the mindset of the general public that there was no official ceremonial gesture of placing even a floral tribute at the mortal remains of the victim at least as a basic courtesy shown to the departed soul on the occasion of her funeral in her local catholic parish church in Idukki. The Bishop of Idukki, Mar John Nellikkunnel was gracious enough to officiate, offering last rites. Israel’s Consul General too represented his nation in person. It is certainly a civil crime and sin if a deceased is politically discriminated against by the civil authorities for any reason whatsoever. But fortunately, that lapse was well compensated by the Hon’ble Governor of Kerala, Arif Muhammed Khanji when the local collector was instructed by him to place a wreath on her mortal remains on the Governor’s behalf. This is civility. This was an excellent gesture of ubernatorial dignity and elegance as also an exemplary act of sober statesmanship on the part of the Governor.
It is also high time that India as a nation and a Republic, believing in peace and non-violence, minimum uphold the right of Israel to exist as a nation. It is not any concession at all that we have to do to Israel. It will be nothing but our reciprocal gesture of goodwill and gratitude that we show to a friend who was indeed a friend in need for us when India was fighting the Kargil War with Pakistan with our back to the wall in despair when most of our pretending friends then — US, Russia, China, Afghanistan and so on, keeping themselves as mere spectators, leaving the matter to be settled between India and Pakistan by themselves. It was Israel and Israel only which secretly offered India then the services of their military intelligence at the request of A.B. Vajpayee. And India could valiantly fight back Pakistan in Kargil with the strong backing of Israel, ultimately pushing the enemy army on their knees. Israel went one step further and declared that anyone fighting against India will be fighting against Israel too. If India could win the Kargil War then, keeping our head held high, it was solely because of the strong backing we had from Israel during the days of the Kargil crisis.
Hence this is the time for India to have a relook on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict and take a stance when our one-time ally and an all time friend is placed face to face with a bitter war situation. Israel’s grievance seems to be that Palestinian fighters are trying to annihilate Israel with all their militancy at their command. The UN unfortunately keep itself a mute spectator, readying itself to come forward, as usual, with a peace initiative in the Security Council once Israel will appear to be on a possible winning spree with its superior military intelligence over it’s pledged rivals. But for the US President Biden who had gone public, asserting the inherent right of Israel to defend its very existence, the UN would have come out this time too by providing some face-saving device to Israel’s detractors. It is high time that the World and the UN come forward with a convincing stance to endorse Israel’s right to live as a nation and of the Jews to survive as a people and a race, bor to excel on their own merit. Given their total support to us when the whole world left us to make a lonely fight in Kargil against our neighboring sister country, Pakistan, we as a nation India also have no option at the present but to ensure a just and fair deal to Israel when they are engaged themselves in a battle royal with their detractors for their very survival as a nation and uphold their political, legal and moral right to exist.
And if the UN fails in its role to keep itself as an effective wall between the World and the war in a face to face crisis in the Middle East, history will write off the UN just as a non-functional and ornamental edifice. Nothing more and nothing less.
Dr. Cyriac Thomas is former Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala and Former Professor and Head of the Research and Post -Graduate Department of Political Science, ST. Thomas College, Palai (Kerala), Former Member, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Govt of India and currently Chairman, Pastoral Council, Catholic Diocese of Palai.
This article is republished from The Organiser