UPDATE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore has issued a travel advisory to Singaporeans to avoid all non-essential travel to Israel in view of the ongoing conflict.
Singaporeans travelling to or residing in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are advised to leave as soon as possible. Please see the full advisory here.
It’s complicated. This was the common sentiment shared when I talked to my friends about the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
Over the past few days, many have been caught off-guard by the sudden escalation of hostilities in Gaza, which began on October 7 after Hamas launched rockets and a surprise invasion into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Israel, in response, declared war on Hamas the next day, putting Gaza under “complete siege”. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are committed to “making sure Hamas doesn’t have any military capabilities by war’s end”.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots in the late 19th century since the partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Through the years, there have always been disputes over the control of land in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem regions; conflicts and wars have been waged that have reshaped borders and control of such areas.
That is one reason why many see the ongoing conflict as complicated. Countries all around the world also have differing stands on the issue, though most hope for peace and the de-escalation of violence.
A time for weeping and mourning
We can all agree that wars are not desirable. Wars are messy and bloody; they harm innocents and take lives.
At time of writing, the Israeli death toll stands at 1,200. In Palestine, the Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 1,200 people in the Gaza Strip were killed in Israel’s counterattacks. Some 5,600 more people have been wounded there.
These are not just numbers. Each one of them is a life created and loved by God.
Each one of them is a parent to someone. A child to someone. A loved one. Each one of them is a beloved child of God.
Could you imagine how God would feel over the loss of these lives? John 11:35 gives us the answer: “Jesus wept.”
Just as Jesus grieved and wept over the death of Lazarus, today we mourn over all the lives that have been lost. And we stand in prayer with all those who have been affected by the war.
Light in the darkness
In the midst of the chaos, however, we have also heard stories about Christians and churches in the region embodying God’s love to the affected.
Alex*, a Singaporean pastor based in Israel, told Salt&Light that people from his church are all looking out for one another, sending messages of concern and prayers, especially to those who have family members on the frontline.
“Though now is one of the darkest hours in Israel’s history, this is the brightest time for God’s love and glory to shine. This is the time for the body of Christ to rise in unity and love,” he said.
Every church in Israel is also “doing all it can” such as offering humanitarian aid and sending supplies to families who have been displaced from their homes due to the war. Churches are offering care, counselling and prayers for those affected through online ministry.
This tells us one thing: God’s Church is not overcome in moments of darkness. The people of God can shine His light as we unite in love and compassion. So let’s continue to pray for Christians to be beacons of hope and peace both in Israel and Palestine.
What part do we play?
The question for us is this: what is the role that God is calling you to play?
Is it to send food or clothes? Is it to donate money? Is it to offer support through online ministry?
Beyond what aid we can offer from where we are in Singapore, there is one thing all believers can and must do in the face of this war — pray.
So, let’s pray to God that…
- Peace in the region would be established
- Hostages would be rescued and their lives would be protected
- All authorities involved would work towards de-escalation as soon as possible
- God would comfort the families of those who have been hurt, kidnapped or killed
- Emergency services personnel would be protected
- Israelis and Palestinians alike will find shelter and refuge
- Israelis and Palestinians alike will receive salvation in Jesus
*Alex’s name has been changed for reasons of security.