A Christian journalist based in Bethlehem has told Premier that the unrest between Israel and Gaza is partly a "spiritual battle". Paul Calvert says the situation continues to be very tense and rioting has broken out in Bethlehem and across the Palestinian Authority :
"If you read the book of Genesis, it talks to the Jews saying, I will give you this land. And it explains who it's given to. So the Jews believe God has given them the land. Now, you've also got Muslims on the other side, they believe that a Messiah is coming soon and going to free Jerusalem and give Israel Palestine to them. So you're asking people to deny their faith? And that's what's making a spiritual battle here in the Holy Land. Because it isn't just a physical battle, it is a spiritual battle as well."
This is a view partly echoed by a Canon of St George's Cathedral in Jerusalem, Reverend David Longe: "I think it's quite clear that elements within each of the warring factions will see it as a spiritual battle. Because they will actually look to Scripture to give them the grounding for the reasons why these actions are happening."
Reverend Longe, who is a trustee of the charity, Friends of the Holy Land, says he's desperately concerned for both sides in the violence and believes it's vital for people across the world to pray for peace in the region: "Even this morning, I received an email from a rabbi friend who lives in Jerusalem saying, please do pray for us. Everyone is in a very, very worried state. I think that the Christian presence is vital. We know it's been diminishing over the last few decades. Yet the witness to peace, to reconciliation, that the Christian community has, is extraordinarily important. Both sides hold very entrenched positions. And can the Christian community open up a space to allow sides to talk? Can they open up a space through their prayer? I think they can. I firmly believe that. There is an element of spirituality deep within this and we need to pray into it and ask that God might bring justice and peace into such pain and healing."
As Paul Calvert reflects: "The Bible says, "pray for the peace of Jerusalem". I'm sure we can extend that for the whole of Israel and for the whole of the Palestinian Authority."