Father David Neuhaus, Jesuit and head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel, on Christian ways out of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Jerusalem/Montreal, July 21, 2014 -In view of the Gaza conflict Father David Neuhaus warned against seeing violence as a means of solving the crisis. “The only way out is for Israeli and Palestinians to realize that violence will only breed more violence. Bombarding Gaza will only create more people who seek revenge for their shattered lives,” the head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel said on Sunday in Jerusalem in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ (ACN). “The international community certainly needs to take a stronger role in bringing the two sides together. The biggest enemy right now is the conviction that military might will bring victory. A first step out of the current crisis will be the admission that military might simply provoke more violence,” Neuhaus continued. “The Israeli leadership, and in a special way the present leadership,” the Jesuit said, “seems to believe that the way to solve the conflict is by military means.” According to Neuhaus Hamas and its like were propagating the parallel lie that violence would bring Israel to its knees.
There was a danger that the conflict would divide the Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking Christians in the Holy Land. “This is the huge challenge! Can we as Christians be united not only in spite of the conflict but also as a part of our mission: to show that brotherhood, peace and reconciliation are possible?” Neuhaus asked. “Christian Palestinians are fully Palestinian, Christian Hebrew speakers identify fully with Israel. This is natural but both need to remember that there are brothers and sisters in faith on the other side. Christians in Beer Sheba should not forget the Christians in Gaza and vice versa!” Neuhaus went on to explain that each was called to solidarity with the society in which he lived. “But this solidarity must be critical solidarity and promote the evangelical values of justice and peace, pardon and reconciliation. We need a ‘prophetic ecumenism’ in the Holy Land that will bring Christians together over the political divide so that Christians on each side of the divide can get to know one another and challenge the societies in which they live with what they learn.” The small number of native Christians was also a blessing because they couldn’t even pretend to be among the powerful, Neuhaus continued. “Planted in the margins, Christians are free to develop a discourse that promotes the values taught in the Gospel.”
Neuhaus estimated that the Christians in the west also had an important part to play. “They must take sides with those who are promoting understanding and dialogue.” the Jesuit said. “Most importantly,” this priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem continued, “they must take sides with a language that seeks to re-describe reality: not a hostile territory where enemies war it out but rather a land where God has firmly planted Jews, Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, not to fight but to recognize that they are brothers and sisters.”