Monday, 28 February 2011

Bethlehem and Babel

On the hill opposite Bethlehem stands this rather ominous looking Israeli settlement. It lies of course in the West Bank, and is remarkable not just for its location but also its size. It bristles like a well-armed fortress, square and aggressive, a metaphor for Israel's Goliath opposite the David of the Palestinian Bethlehem (appropriate,

I suppose as David is said to have been born there, even if the nationalities are reversed). It is perched on a hill, a monument to Israel's desire for security and determination to keep the Palestinians firmly in their place behind the security wall that has turned Bethlehem and its surrounding villages into what is effectively an open prison.

It reminded me of something, and when I got home I remembered what it was - Pieter Brueghel the Elder's painting of the Tower of Babel. It is both a pictorial and symbolic likeness. Babel was a human attempt to establish security, presence and a future without God. The settlements are attempts to establish security, presence and a future without justice. Israel needs security and has a right to it. Yet however solid the settlements look and feel, they will only ever be as substantial as Babel if they are built on land that not rightfully owned or foundations of fear.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Do you take back your HTB comments at a service in 2009 where you said that the Israeli attack on Gaza was in self defence and that Israel was surrounded by hostile Arab nations and that it was legitimately concerned for its survival? Basically your sermon was a regurgitation of the establishment line and I was in the audience, appalled at this, i tried to catch you at the end of the service but a member of HTB stopped me, he said he was a former Marine, and after chatting to him for 5 minutes he said he agreed that what you said and what the media was spreading at the time was biased and that he agreed with my view which was that the Palestinians are the ones who are the victims and if they were Tibetans and the aggressor were the Chinese the facts would certainly be more freely available to the masses but instead we have constant disinformation that makes the victims the ones who are condemned and the oppressors the ones who are protected. Your views?

  2. I think you will find that is far from what I said, in fact I was heavily criticised after that sermon by several pro-Israeli Christians who felt I had leant far too far in support of the Palestinian cause. If you listened carefully to the sermon you will know that I was simply trying to help people understand the different sides of the argument. In trying to put the Israeli case, I was not expressing support for it myself, but to help people understand what the Israeli case is. The conclusion of the talk was clearly saying that both are victims, Israel of their history of persecution, the Palestinans of Israeli injustice, that the land was not Israel's but God's and that Israel needed to listen to the legitimate claims for justice of the Palestinian people.

  3. Actually, i dont recall the words "Israeli injustice" were ever mentioned and there is a simple way to clear up any misunderstanding that I may have made, which i do not believe is the case, and that is to listen to the CD that was available for sale of this service. If you believe that because several "pro Israeli Christians" criticising you is evidence that you had spoken with some bias towards the Palestinians then thats a very sorry state of affairs. Anyone who has an interest i the middle east and has studied its politics etc will be able to advise you, as you will no doubt already know, the right wing pro Israel camp will move swiftly to condemn ANY speech that raises the name of Israel without praise and support to follow as anti-semitic.

    In your sermon you mentioned Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions being a legitimate concern for Israel, is this something you would like to retract considering even at the time this was labelled "remote" by CIA reports which Bush had swatted away as irrelevant and "old news"?

    If you had infact used the words Israeli injustice I would have remembered it and would have mentioned it in my post but yours was a repeating of the government line and I am not sure what is more regrettable, the fact that you have this forum to perpetuate this view or the fact that the congregation at HTB are so conditioned that educated, well to do individuals are all nodding in agreement. Surely the God that we read about in the Bible does not support murder, deceipt, racism, lies and injustice. Is it true, at least in the eyes of many right wing Christians that in Israel we have humans and in Palestine we have two legged beasts whose suffering is to be blamed on themselves because those inflicting the suffering are "Gods chosen people"?

  4. I have a question for you Dr Tomlin, are we still to pray for our war mongering government considering Christ's condemnation of warmongers? I also notice you deleted my last post. Was there any reasonable reason for that?


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