Beersheba Bus Terminal, The Negev, Israel – Nov 2005
And then there was silence. An unsettling calm before a storm. A journalist hurries to capture the moment on camera. He takes the focus off Yeshua and transfers it to the crowd.
All around emotions were brewing. Mouths were gaping, eyes were blazing with anger.
Horror, disbelief and indignation were written on many faces.
How could He say such things? What an insensitive story to tell a nation that is just reeling from the bloodshed left by the Second Intifada. More than 1000 Israelis, mostly civilians, have perished in the last 4 years. Suicide bombings, kidnappings, shootings, and rocket attacks have become permanent news fixtures.
Here in central Beersheba, poignant reminders of terrorist attacks are everywhere. Has He forgotten that in 1998, 64 innocent people were hurt right here in a grenade attack? What about the suicide bombings that wrecked two buses just a few streets away last year?
And how dare He speak about Highway 60! This has become one of the most dangerous roads in the region. Five Israelis living in the settlement of Otniel have been killed on that road by Palestinian gunmen over the last 10 years.
The orthodox Jew who asked the question started hurling insults at Him. The crowd joins in. Police officers arrive at the scene just as the commotion escalates.
This is what he said on tape:
An orthodox Jew stood up with a question to test Yeshua, “Rabbi, what do I need to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence- and that you love your neighbour as you do yourself.”
“Good answer! “said Yeshua. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”
Yeshua answered by telling a story, “There was once a Jewish man driving on Highway 60 from Beersheba to Otniel in the West Bank. As he was passing the South Hebron hills, he was attacked by gunmen. He received multiple gunshot wounds and was fast bleeding to death at the side of the road. Just then, a fellow Jewish Israeli drove past on the same side of the road. Being afraid of ending up with the same fate, he swerved his car to the midline to avoid the man and sped off. A Rabbi who was travelling in the opposite direction hurried past too.
Not long after, a Palestinian man on his way to Beit Jala, caught a glimpse of the man and slowed his vehicle as he approached. When he realised what had occurred, his heart went out to him. Despite being fully aware of the danger, he pulled over, rushed out of his car and gave first aid to the man before bundling him into the back seat of his car. He then drove as quickly as he could to the Red Crescent Hospital in Hebron city. There he personally pleaded with the doctors and nurses on the Jewish man’s behalf, that they might attend to and save him.
At his own expense, he paid whatever bill there was. He then phoned the man’s relatives in Otniel to inform them of what had happened. He sat at the man’s bedside attending to his needs, making sure that he was safe until he was finally transferred to a tertiary hospital in Jerusalem for onward cares.
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbour to the man?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the orthodox Jew responded.
Yeshua said, “Go and do the same.”
Gentle Jesus meek and mild. If this is the only image of Jesus in your mind then I suggest you reconsider.
Jesus was never concerned about being politically correct. His stories were pungent, stirring, and often offensive to the political and religious elite of the day.
The original parable of the Good Samaritan may have lost some of its punch because the ancient animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews are foreign to us. Replace the Samaritan with a Palestinian and the story heats up (interestingly there are 800 Samaritans left in Israel today).
Palestine and Israel
The Palestinian – Israeli conflict has gone on for decades. It’s multifaceted and extremely complex. Attacks, reprisals, corruption, broken promises, violence, separation, segregation, distrust, hatred, and bitterness continue to define their relationship.
Jesus never allowed Himself to be drawn into the political arguments of the day. Neither did He take sides. He aptly reminded those around Him that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36 NIV).
Instead He elevated the importance of neighborly. He went as far as suggesting that after loving God, “loving your neighbor as yourself” is the second most important commandment and a prerequisite to eternal life. Five out of the Ten Commandments concern our relationship with God, while the remaining five have everything to do with being neighborly. Jesus remarked that “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two Commandments” (Matthew 22:40 NIV).
It all sounds nice and agreeable until we realise who our ‘neighbors’ must include. Is it a family member that hurts us? A corrupt politician? What about an entire race or perhaps people with different beliefs?
Jesus showed us what ultimate neighborliness looks like; “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NIV).
Signs of neighborliness exist in the midst of a fractured peace in Israel today. A Palestinian man lost his job recently as he was viewed as a traitor for rushing to save the children of a slain Rabbi during an attack on settlers in Hebron. Or consider the fact that Israeli doctors offer state of the art healthcare to almost 180,000 Palestinians every year.
We pray for the Shalom of Yeshua upon every Israeli and Palestinian living in the state of Israel today.
(Shalom: completeness, peace and harmony with God, man and nature)