Joel of Jerusalem Feb/Mar 1971

With an Arab Family in Bethlehem

A few days ago I went to Bethlehem to visit an injured Arab friend who had worked with me on a building and had fallen from the scaffolding. All his family and friends were there—about thirty people in all. At first the conversation was about general matters, but then someone said:

“When God created Eve He deceived and desecrated Adam by putting him to sleep and robbing him of his rib to make a woman. Apparently already then God was on the side of the Jews.” The logic of this did not make any sense to me. But they became increasingly more excited, and I could not put in a word. Seeing their fanaticism and bitterness, I decided to leave, but the head of the house became quite hostile and kept me from leaving.

I said, “I came here to visit a fellow worker injured at work, and you treat me like this? Shame on you! This is not at all in the Arab tradition of hospitality to a guest!”

My words apparently had a sobering effect on them, especially when I said in Arabic, “God is one, and He is for all people without exception. He is for the Arabs, the Jews, the colored people and for everybody. When God created man there were no Jews, no Arabs and no nationalities. But when man sinned, he soon learned to hate others and to kill. They began to spread false rumors about each other and to despise each other. For instance, they told you that the Jews have horns and tails, but you see we are the same kind of people as you are, and are even relatives of yours through Abraham. God promised him that through his seed there will come forth many nations. The promise was made to him before there were any Jews or Arabs. In the course of time the children of Abraham started to hate and to persecute one another. They forgot what it is to have mercy and compassion, until the time came when our Father in heaven sent His salvation into the world. And where did this happen? Right here in this little town of Bethlehem. Here was born the one whom you call Isa, and the Jews call Yeshua, and all the world knows Him as Jesus. This Jesus brought to all men forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, and He taught us to love one another.

The eldest of them remarked, “How amazing! I thought the Jews hate Jesus, but you defend Him. Are you really a Jew?” I said, “Yes. We who believe in Jesus are the true Jews, and so was St. Paul. The reason why I came to see you is because Jesus put love into my heart and told me to come and see you. Jesus told us to love our enemies.”

One of them said, “We all respect you for what you believe, but we cannot agree to one thing. This Isa (Jesus) as we believe was a prophet, Rut Mohammed was the greatest of all prophets.” I showed them from the Scriptures that the Lord Jesus Christ was the one promised in the

Old Testament, about whom the New Testament tells us how He brought love into the world in contrast to the Koran which (in Sura 190), says, “Hate your enemy, kill him wherever you find him.”  They looked at each other perplexed but could find no answer. I then read to them John 3:16.  Finally one said in Arabic, “The Jews are smarter than we Arabs.

“No,” I said, “this is not cleverness, but the wisdom and love of God. However, love cannot enter where there is darkness and bitter hatred.”

The eldest of them began to cry and walked up to me, embraced me, kissed me and said: “Thank you very much. You taught us a great lesson today.We have so much to learn, especially about love. This is so strange to us.”

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