In considering how to achieve peace in the Holy Land, we should look back to the example of Abraham (Ibrahim), a common spiritual ancestor of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur’an tell how three strangers appeared at Abraham’s tent. He offered them shelter, food, and drink. They turned out to be angels in disguise who told him that his wife Sarah, childless in old age, would bare a son, endowed with knowledge, leading to a great nation (Genesis 18:1-15; Qur’an 51:24-27). The New Testament summarizes this experience in a single verse: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2). The Holy Scriptures of all three faiths have numerous passages calling for hospitality to strangers, sojourners, aliens.
This concept of hospitality can be a key to achieving peace for Israel and Palestine.
To begin with Israelis and Palestinians can grant hospitality to one another by giving mutual recognition that each side is entitled to have a safe, secure, peaceable, viable state in a territory where they are the predominant population. Already Israeli is a multicultural state with 25 percent non-Jewish population. Palestine too could be a multicultural state with Jews and other minorities making up a portion of the population.
The most common proposal for creation of a Palestinian State is to recognize that 70 to 80 percent of the inhabitants of Israeli settlements are concentrated relatively near the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank. Therefore, a land swap could occur with Israel annexing this territory in exchange for a similar amount of territory elsewhere that it would cede to the new Palestinian state.
This process can be eased by halting expansion of existing settlements and not initiating new ones. Nonetheless in this arrangement a number of settlements would remain within Palestine. Rather than evicting the residents and tearing down the settlements, as occurred in Gaza, these inhabitants should be allowed to remain if they choose. This would make Palestine multicultural as Israel is.
In the name of hospitaity the settlers who remain could be offered full citizenship in Palestine with voting rights, other civil rights, and representation in the Palestinian governing body. Short of that they could be given the status of permanent residents (an offer Israel made to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem after annexing that territory). An alternative would allow the Israeli settlers to become dual citizens of Palestine, where they are living, and Israel, from which they have come.
Hospitality of this sort is embodied in The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948). The new state would become a homeland, “open for Jewish migration and for the ingathering of Exiles.” But at the same time it would “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants,” “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” and “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.” And so it is that in Israel today non-Jewish citizens have full citizenship, including the right to vote, form political parties, gain representation in the Knesset, serve as judges, hold other political offices, and be employed for government jobs.
Nevertheless, some human rights observers indicate that some practices which are discriminatory against Arab citizens occur in Israel. To the extent that these claims are valid, elimination of all vestiges of discrimination can be another focus of hospitality. In a spirit of reciprocity the new multicultural Palestine should avoid all forms of discrimination against its Jewish inhabitants.
As to Jerusalem a new approach would be to transform Jerusalem into a unified, international city with sovereignty by both Israel and Palestine. It would the capital for both nations. The Israeli Knesset is already there. Palestine would construct a new capitol building.
In a unified Jerusalem all residents would have equal right to vote and elect a city council. They would offer hospitality to one another. Recognizing a dual constituency, there could be two mayors, one Jewish, one Palestinian (as Israel has two chief rabbis). Each mayor would have a veto on local legislation. They could share a common reception area with the hope that propinquity would enhance cooperation.
There could be a council of neighborhoods, drawing together representatives from all sections of the city. They would seek unity out of diversity. Together they would promote achievement of a glorious city, a New Jerusalem that provides for the well-being of all.
Because of the history of animosity stretching over decades it would be useful to create a broad-based truth and reconciliation commission, drawing on the experience of South Africa and commissions in 32 other nations. This process could enhance the offering of mutual Abrahamic hospitality between the two peoples.
Howard W. Hallman is a United Methodist layperson who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. He is author of Living in God’s Kingdom: Here and Now (2016). Bio at https://livingingodskingdom.org/howardhallman/