Religion may be seen as a dividing factor between Israel and Palestine, but focusing on religion can also bring the warring sides together.
It appears that the most recent conflict in the Gaza Strip may finally be slowing down. The Israeli troops have withdrawn completely from Gaza, and many Palestinians are now able to return to their homes. But many people outside of the Middle East are intrigued as to how much of a role religion has played within this conflict.
Hamas, the group that is within Gaza and is in direct opposition to the country of Israel, is an Islamist militant group. The country of Israel is a Jewish nation. But that does not necessarily mean that every single person living within Israel is Jewish, and there are many people of different faith groups living within Gaza that have absolutely nothing to do with Hamas, whether they are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.
In an article by Rajan Zed, Hindu Statesman and World Religion News Featured Contributor, leaders of all faiths proposed paths to peace for Israel and Palestine. Sherif A. Elfass, prominent leader in the Nevada Muslim Community, encouraged everyone to find their common grounds, “Meanwhile, Muslims believe that all Abrahamic religions came from the same God. So, the teachings are basically the same: Be just, do not discriminate, love and protect one another, etc.” Tahoe Rabbi ElizaBeth W. Beyer encouraged education and justice as pillars to lean on to bring peace to the area, “There must be a strong educational initiative that teaches that peace comes with hard work and diligence, responsibility and justice.”
Father Edward Beck, Rabbi Matthew Gerwitz, and Imam W. Dean Shareef came together in a CNN interview to state that all three religions preach compassion and mercy. Father Edward Beck in particular emphasised the need to remove the fear in the area, so that people would no longer lash out with violence. Many people, of a multitude of faiths, are hoping that the peace that we are currently seeing in the Gaza area can hold.
This religious element to the conflict often means that people around the world who follow a faith will be much more likely to support those that follow the same religion as them. For example, research has shown, unsurprisingly, that American Jewish people are very supportive of the Jewish Israeli nation. Similarly, the more often an American Christian attends church also has a direct correlation on the level of support that they have for Israel. The more that they attend church, the stronger their support.