US Embassy move in Israel: backlash targets overlooked group

Israel (MNN) – It’s been just over a week since President Trump announced the US Embassy in Israel would move to Jerusalem, recognizing the disputed city as Israel’s capital.

Tom Doyle with Uncharted Ministries and a Middle East advisor for e3 Partners says he was in Jerusalem with his wife on a ministry Bible tour when the announcement was made.

“We were doing some ministry with Palestinians and Jewish people in Israel. So we were going to bed, it was late at night and we had to get up for an early flight. But my phone just started going off and people said, ‘President Trump is making the announcement.’ So we turned on the TV and saw some of the Israelis celebrating; we actually saw a big huge electric kind of sign on the wall and at first, it looked like the Western Wall. But it was the Tower of David which was right outside our hotel,” he shares.

“So we went down there and just kind of wanted to get a feel for what people were thinking. There was, of course, a celebration of Jewish people in Jerusalem. Obviously, not so much for Palestinians. It was quiet in Bethlehem.”

Like the wildly differing reactions to the announcement in Jerusalem, responses to the move have reverberated around the world – both joy and outrage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the decision by President Trump as a critical move towards peace in the region. But Muslim leaders from 57 countries condemned the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, since Palestine also claims the major city as its capital. Riots in Jerusalem resulted in the arrests of at least 77 Palestinians.

“It just underscores the fact that Israel is the place where it’s an intersection of history, the Bible, religion, and politics. They just clash head-on day-after-day. And so we saw it again in full force with the announcement. Even though Israel has pretty much treated Jerusalem as their capital and has their commencement there and major government offices, for the United States to recognize it as the official capital of Israel is a strong statement.”

Doyle says the natural assumption is that there will be backlash against Jews in Israel and around the world. And it’s an accurate assumption since Jews have indeed been attacked in the wake of this announcement.

“Vastly, around the world, we’re seeing anti-Semitism rise up and people are angry about this.”

But, Doyle also points out, people may not realize that Palestinian Christians are actually suffering some of the worst backlash.

“Radical Muslim groups like Hamas or Islamic jihad in Gaza see Christians as soft on Israel. So if you’re a Palestinian and you’re living in Gaza…you may disagree with some of the things Israel has done, you may say they retaliate too hard or whatever, but as a Christian you’re not motivated to go out and kill Jews – which that is standard for Hamas, Islamic jihad, some of the groups that are present there…. So our Palestinian workers that we worked with said, ‘Please, pray for us. This will not be easy for us.’”

So how can other Christians around the world approach this multi-faceted issue with wisdom and compassion?

“We say this at Uncharted: We love both sides. We believe that Israel has a right to exist, that God called them back, he predicted that in the Scriptures, and that legitimately they have been given back this land. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been horribly hard for Palestinians. Many Palestinian believers we work with actually had land that was lost when Israel became a nation. So we just say this: We want to love the Jews. We want to love the Palestinians. God’s heart is big enough to love them both.”

Ultimately, Doyle encourages, “The only solution is Jesus. And of course, the listeners of Mission Network News would expect us to say that. But we’re involved with a lot of things in Israel and the Middle East, and none of the peace plans are going to please both sides. They’ll have to give up something, both sides. It’s going to be difficult and really the only one who can bring them together is Jesus. It’s been delightful to work with Jewish believers and Palestinian believers who love each other and who work arm-in-arm. They had barriers between them, but it’s just a great thing to see that the Gospel really solves everything.”

When it seems like the problem is primarily a political problem, it’s easy to just focus on a political solution. And political solutions are, indeed, critical.

But when the problem is seen primarily as a spiritual problem, we should fervently pray for a spiritual solution.

“As believers, we have to elevate above the news, above the politics and realize that the physical war on the ground is just really a reflection of the spiritual war raging in the Heavenlies. That’s what this is about,” says Doyle.

“Pray that the Gospel just makes inroads within Israel, within the Palestinian communities. Because ultimately, that’s the solution. Talk about a one-state solution, a two-state solution — we’re talking about an eternal solution. And this is what’s so important is that people come to faith in Christ on both sides.”