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War number four. That is how many times Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers have clashed in bloody conflict. The Islamic militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, some hitting deeper in Israeli territory and with greater accuracy than ever before. The onslaught was matched with hundreds of airstrikes that Israel said targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network.
Then came the cease-fire. After 11 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to a “mutual and unconditional” truce as brokered by mediator Egypt. If this sounds all-too-familiar, it is because something similar happened in 2014, 2012 and 2008—with clashes between Israel and Hamas going back to the Islamist group’s creation in 1987.
The current round of fighting began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims.
To the Jews, Jerusalem was its capital in Old Testament times. And Christians see the city as the birthplace of the New Testament church—with some also viewing it as the prophetic epicenter of events to occur surrounding Jesus Christ’s Return.
Ideological and religious views aside, as with any war, the human cost for the Israel-Hamas conflict is tragic. The Gaza Health Ministry reported at least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded. The ministry does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and militant group Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.
Yet the cease-fire does not address the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it merely hits pause on what seems a never-ending war. The internationally backed peace process has largely been on hold for over a decade.
Jerusalem has been the scene of violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs for 100 years and remains one of the most bitterly contested cities on Earth.
Why does Jerusalem always seem to be on edge? Why can the city not secure true peace?
Capital of Two Peoples
Israel views Jerusalem as its “unified, eternal” capital. It captured east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians want those territories for a future state, with east Jerusalem serving as their eventual capital. Many in the international community refuse to recognize Israel’s annexation of the area.
The fate of east Jerusalem has been one of the thorniest issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.
Israelis on May 10 were set to mark Jerusalem Day, a national holiday celebrating the annexation. In past years, thousands of Israelis—mainly religious nationalists—have marched through the Old City, including the densely populated Muslim Quarter, in a display considered provocative by many Palestinians.
In recent days, hardline Israelis have staged other events in east Jerusalem, leading to scattered, violent altercations with Palestinians.
A Contested Site
May 10’s clashes took place in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City. The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a sprawling plateau that is also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to the compound as the Noble Sanctuary.
The walled plateau is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, because it was the location of biblical temples. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70, with only the Western Wall remaining. The mosques were built centuries later.
Neighboring Jordan serves as the custodian of the site, which is operated by an Islamic endowment known as the Waqf. The site is open to tourists during certain times but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
In recent years, groups of religious and nationalist Jews escorted by police have been visiting the compound in greater numbers and holding prayers in defiance of rules established after 1967 by Israel, Jordan and Muslim religious authorities. The Palestinians view the frequent visits and attempted prayers by Jews as a provocation, and it often ignites scuffles or more serious violence.
Some Israelis say the site should be open to all worshippers. The Palestinians refuse, fearing that Israel will eventually take over the site or partition it. Israeli officials say they have no intention of changing the status quo.
How Will It End?
Stop and consider. The world’s greatest politicians and thinkers have not found the answer to ending Israel-Palestine violence. And this is not for lack of trying. Why?
Consider this question on a larger scale. Why has mankind never been able to bring lasting peace throughout history? A major answer is human nature is getting in the way.
Muslims and Jews both claim a lineage from the patriarch Abraham. Here is what Abraham’s God says about mankind in His Word: “…the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).
Isaiah 59:8 more bluntly states: “The way of peace they know not...”
It is not given to man to figure out peace on his own. Yet this does not mean Israel and Palestine will be at war forever. The Bible also has a lot to say about Jerusalem—including how the tensions there will finally end.
One-third of Scripture is prophecy, which can be likened to history written in advance. God says He will do something, and then brings it to pass.
Peace in Jerusalem is one of the events prophesied to occur—yet it will not come by the hands of men. Notice Isaiah 40: “Comfort you, comfort you My people, says your God. Speak you comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished…” (vs. 1-2).
There has never been a time when Jerusalem’s warfare has ceased. The city has been in the hands of Jews, Muslims, Christians and others throughout millennia. The Old Testament shows that ancient Israel fared little better than their modern counterparts.
Jerusalem’s warfare ending is just one element of what God will soon do on Earth. It is one piece of Him setting up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan. 2:4)—bringing peace to the Middle East and the entire globe.
Read How God’s Kingdom Will Come – The Untold Story! for the full picture.
This article contains information from The Associated Press.