The Other Side of the Wall
The Other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope
by Munther Isaac
FES Library book call number: 261.2 ISA
As a young boy looking at the world map, I was puzzled as to why Israel is within Palestine. The media then would always portray the Palestinians as troublemakers, forcing Israel to retaliate. When I accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord, it did not make this whole picture any clearer, the different millennial theological stands only complicated this entire matter further.
Reading this book indeed sheds light as Munther Isaac shares his personal story of going through all this misery. On this side of the wall, we see restrictions, to some extent, persecutions, and as a brother-in-Christ, even rejections. One of the reviews I saw online even branded him as anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. I wonder why because what I read in this book has been words of reconciliation and encouragement for folks on both sides of the wall.
Talking about walls, from the recent Mexican wall built by the Trump administration to the famous (or infamous) Berlin wall separating the then East and West Germany; the human race has been good at building walls in the name of security and protection at the expense of segregating the people causing divisions and worst, animosity. This Israeli West Bank wall, which was built in 2002, has achieved its aim, nonetheless.
It is clear that Munther Isaac authored this book, not for personal vindication, nor is it even for the justification for his Palestinian race. He is calling upon the Church and the People of God to see what our Father in heaven desires from us as expressed in the verses below from Amos 5: 21–24 (ESV).
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
We cannot just stay on the fringe and not do good (the will of God) by ratonalising that we are not doing evil either. As the Jewish Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: the opposite of good is not evil, it is indifference. Over the years I have been invited to tour the Holy Land free of charge, the only duty that I need to fulfill is to guide the sisters and brothers in the tour group to understand the biblical and cultural perspectives. Knowing that we will not have a ‘complete’ tour of the Holy Land, my natural reaction was always to decline this favourable offer. Maybe I should reconsider my response when such an offer comes by again.
In this book, the author also mentions the conference that some of us in FES Singapore were physically present. This was the last EARC (East Asia Regional Conference) which was held in Incheon, South Korea in 2017. Munther Isaac, the expository speaker for this conference, said that before there is hope, there is lament. As we lament, we find rest (or unrest) and eventually leads us to hope. One whole book in the Bible is devoted to lamentations and a large portion of the Psalms is about lamenting.
Munther Isaac is gifting us with gems from Scripture in this book. As he struggles, he invites us to struggle with him as he tries to comprehend the Sermon of the Mount, in particular the Beatitudes. Let us find truth in the light of God’s revelation as we venture forth in these dark and difficult moments, especially when we feel like giving up and running away, let us lament (together), and find hope.
Lai Sze Khiong
Head, FES Chinese Work