Have you ever been cruising down the carpool lane of the freeway when you found yourself suddenly “trapped like a rat,” because you missed your exit? And there is no quick remedy, as you are pushed ever forward by the traffic behind you. And there—between you and the freedom of an exit—is the real “enemy,” that big double yellow line that keeps you from where you need to go. Your world is over there, but you can’t get to it!
But what if you had to experience restricted travel every day? Imagine if your highway was a mere two lanes, restricted not with just a yellow line, but with a wall designed to not only fence you in, but also to fence you out.
A road without exits
Steven Erlanger of the New York Times wire service recently wrote of just such a road (“West Bank Highway Creates Separation,” The Riverside Press-Enterprise, Aug. 11, 2007).
Erlanger describes a road being built in the West Bank just east of Jerusalem. At first read, it might seem like a progressive breakthrough as both Israelis and Palestinians are allowed to travel on the same road, but let’s take a closer look.
This four-lane thoroughfare offers two lanes for Israelis and two lanes for Palestinians that are separated by a tall concrete wall.
Seeing beyond its immediate purpose, Erlanger rightfully deciphers the design as making a statement not lost on the travelers of this road. It portrays a stark reminder of the permanent ugliness that swirls around this ribbon of concrete. The Israeli side of the road has many an exit into their neighborhoods, while the Palestinian side has few. This barrier between peoples to protect them from one another is not coming down any time soon, and there are reasons why.
Roads have impacted human history
Throughout history roads have impacted humanity. They can both connect and divide people. Historically, their purpose has been for the defense of an empire or nation. The Romans understood this from the time they laid the first stone on the Appian Way through southern Italy.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower copied the German autobahn when he became U.S. president, directing America to create its great interstate highway system during the 1950s partly for defense purposes. (Did you think all of that concrete was poured just so you could get to your vacation spot?)
Over the past half century, freeways have separated communities and changed the character of the urban landscape, often separating the “haves” from the “have-nots.” Urban renewal and master planning have not always been masterful in renewing the human spirit or bringing people together. Roads not only move armies and goods, but in the long run, they transform the human psyche and perspective.
The road currently being constructed in the West Bank was designed during the administration of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Also a former general, Sharon thought strategically and defensively. The long-range intent of this thoroughfare was paving the way for Israel to build more settlements on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, thus creating a further buffer between the city and the Arab residents of the West Bank.
The “sweetener” that would help win the approval of the ever-watchful international community was a guarantee of unimpeded access between the Arab-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But this freeway comes with a price.
One road with two opinions
The price of what is politically called “transportational contiguity (geographic linkage)” is that there would be no exit granting access to the heavily Arab populated section of East Jerusalem. Israelis will travel through designated Palestinian territory without seeing an Arab, and the Palestinians will be denied access to Israeli population centers through a series of tunnels and bridges at major interchanges that bypass exits.
Political lines are drawn on both sides of this roadway issue. Reporter Erlanger writes of the frustration of Daniel Seidemann, an advocate for better relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.
“To me, this road is a move to create borders, to change final status. It’s to allow Maale Adumim and E1 (Jewish settlements) into Jerusalem, but be able to say, ‘See, we’re treating the Palestinians well—there’s geographical contiguity.’” And then, Seidemann throws the gauntlet down by stating, “Measure it yourself. The Palestinian road is 16 meters wide. The Israeli theory of a contiguous Palestinian state is 16 meters wide!”
On the other side of the road issue, David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman, candidly proclaims, “The security arrangements on these roads are in place to protect the citizens of Israel. And they are not connected to any other matter.”
The spokesman hastens to add that Palestinians with permits to enter Israel have equal access to the same lanes as Israelis and that transportation for the other Palestinians will be better facilitated with a quick north to south route. The bottom line is that the highway ultimately will be a highly segregated road in an already turbulent region.
Yes, roads have consequences! How often have you and I looked at a road map and seen what looked like a straight line from point A to point B only to discover there were many bumps, curves and dips along the way. The route that seems best may have hidden surprises.
Who among us can claim to have the wisdom of a Solomon to divide a baby in two? Obviously, the Israelis seek and demand security and strategic assurance for their beleaguered citizenry. Equally apparent is the plight of the Palestinians who seek freedom of movement and commerce in a land where some families have resided for over 1,400 years.
Let’s ask the big question
The big question is whether there is any obvious way to serve everyone’s interest. I don’t think so!
Remember the legend of Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot? It was said that the individual who could untie the great knot would be the conqueror of all of Asia. Many a person worked around the edges, making only scant progress. All went away frustrated. Except Alexander, who when confronted with the impossible challenge, took his sword and sliced the knot right down the middle. Leaping past the approaches that guaranteed failure, he used his head to arrive at a dramatic solution.
The Bible describes the area of Jerusalem as a type of Gordian knot to all who approach its complexities. Zechariah 12:1-3 Zechariah 12:1-3 1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
American King James Version×refers to Jerusalem and its environs as a “cup of drunkenness” and a “very heavy stone” for all peoples.
Down through the ages, there seemingly has been no way to get around the knotty issues that have confronted the Holy Land. Many have tried to work around the edges, but nobody has sliced through the big issues to create a road to lasting peace.
A different kind of highway
Scripture forecasts who will settle the far greater issues than the segregated road on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The solution exceeds anything that human efforts could produce. The Bible plainly reveals in Zechariah 14:4 Zechariah 14:4And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×that Jesus Christ is going to return to a fractured world and specifically to Jerusalem. “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.” The words of the New Testament build upon the prophecy, characterizing Christ’s method: “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” (Revelation 19:15 Revelation 19:15And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
American King James Version×).
Yes, Christ is not going to mire Himself in humanity’s political angling for the best for themselves, but is going to slice through the knotty issues that have separated people from generation to generation.
Isaiah 40:3 Isaiah 40:3The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
American King James Version×speaks of a different road than is currently appearing in my local newspaper. It speaks “of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Verse 4 continues, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low.”
Mountain is a biblical term that denotes a kingdom or nation. This is not merely speaking of apocalyptic earthquakes and topographical upsurges as if God is simply a “divine bulldozer.” It is addressing the leveling of the fault lines of human society as Christ initiates a world-ruling kingdom of grace and opportunity.
The language of the remainder of verse 4 is remarkably apropos for today’s problems: “…the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.” And all of this can only be made possible when “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (verse 5).
Restorer of streets to dwell in
Such divine presence and glory will do more than straighten out and open up roads. It will open up the greatest roadblock in human history, the heart!
Isaiah 58:12 Isaiah 58:12And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
American King James Version×describes the resurrected saints serving with Christ, who will share His title, “…Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.” God’s government will bring a truly new way of thinking.
I suggest to you that such a world will not promote a “separate, but equal” philosophy or forbid people from being able to engage one another.
Quite the contrary, the book of Isaiah, the manifesto of the new Kingdom with a new heart, speaks of an altered society of former antagonists who enter and exit out of one another’s communities with God’s blessings.
Isaiah 19:23-24 Isaiah 19:23-24 23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the middle of the land:
American King James Version×describes a smooth flow of traffic: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land.”
Did I miss something here? Where are the walls? I think you know the answer.
Until that day, when you are frustrated over missing your exit on the local freeway, remember the West Bank highway that doesn’t have exits. Perhaps the words of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×, “This is the way, walk in it” are best understood in the words of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the Way” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×).
How often did He create openings for people to thrive and become whole? Never a wall! Never a sign saying, “No trespassing.” He provided an off-ramp from the ways that are separating us from our fellow man and provided an on-ramp to eternity.
So, what kind of road are you building for others in your world? WNP