There was a day when it was said in Israel that ‘God has come to help his people’.
By Charles Gardner.
LONDON, April 11, 2023 – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the mole asks a lost little boy in a cracking new story now adapted for the screen. “Kind” is his simple, surprising answer!
I’ll come back to this wonderful tale, because it has helped me to make sense of all the world’s current troubles, especially what is happening on the Temple Mount and the wider conflict in Israel.
Add to this Rabbi Leo Dee’s devastating loss of his wife and two of his daughters in a shocking terrorist attack. The family had emigrated to Israel from Britain in 2014.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems never-ending and nonsensical. I know it goes back to brothers falling out with each other thousands of years ago. But it surely had a chance of coming to a shuddering halt the day Israeli forces took back control of all Jerusalem in 1967 for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.
Mysteriously, in an apparent gesture of peace, legendary war hero Moshe Dayan handed over authority for the much-disputed Temple Mount to an Islamic trust run by the Jordanians – the very people who had been defeated, along with other neighbouring states, in that short, sharp conflict.
And it followed their illegal annexation of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem during the 1948/9 War of Independence.
It was no doubt with good intention, with Israel already tiring of successive defensive wars to maintain their rightful place in the Middle East, and in God’s promised land.
But it never produced the elusive peace. Now, with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan once again clashing with Passover and Easter, Palestinian rioters barricaded themselves in the Al Aqsa Mosque stockpiled with stones and fireworks, ostensibly to use as weapons against their enemy whose claim to this hallowed piece of ground pre-dates theirs by some 1,600 years.
They even kept fellow Muslims hostage by locking the door. And because others would sooner or later want to worship there, Israeli police needed to confront them, or else they would be accused of preventing Muslims from worshipping at their third holiest site.
Islam claims this sacred plot as theirs, duly conquered, with any Jewish presence seen as provocation, while denying obvious historical links (backed by archaeology and the Bible) to the Jews – specifically their glorious temples built on this site where even Jesus taught and debated with religious leaders.
It seems Israel can’t win. But one day they will. There will come a day when God himself will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:9), inaugurating Messiah’s everlasting reign.
It still doesn’t make sense, but it is clear that Jew-hatred is behind the enduring conflict.
Then I watched a short, animated movie that recently won an Oscar for its creator, a Christian artist called Charlie Mackesy, and there was the answer, sublime and so simple, yet explosively hitting the bull’s eye.
In The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, based on Charlie’s illustrated book and screened over Easter on the BBC, the lost little boy makes friends with the animals who duly help him find his way home. On establishing that kindness was his great ambition in life, the animals responded in kind.
And on seeing his face reflected in the river, the boy observes with extraordinary depth: “We can only see what’s on the outside of us, but everything happens on the inside!”
After assuring his new friend that the storm would pass when sheltering from thundery weather, the wise horse remarks: “Life is difficult, but you are loved,” with the fox adding: “You are loved and important, and you bring to this world things no-one else can.”
To which the mole retorts: “That’s why we’re here, isn’t it; to love, and be loved?”
And asking for help would be the bravest thing you’ve ever said. I can’t remember which of them said that, but you get the picture. Sounds very much like the sort of things Jesus said. When he raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead, the people were filled with awe, saying: “God has come to help his people.” (Luke 7:16)
And that is still the case. My wife and I have a beautiful framed drawing by Charlie Mackesy in pride of place above our dining room table, given to us long before he became a celebrity.
Against a background (in longhand) of the story told by Jesus of the Prodigal Son, which the artist reckoned should really be called The Running Father, it depicts a loving dad embracing his wayward son – a gesture he didn’t deserve.
He had been waiting every day for his boy to return – the boy who had rejected him so badly – and finally, when he saw him from a long way off, his father ran to him and hugged him and kissed him (Luke 15:11-32).
Now Charlie’s lost boy just wants to be kind and find his way home. He too needs to know the Father’s love.
“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it – to love, and be loved?” Perhaps the bravest thing both Arab and Jew can do at this juncture is to ask for help – from our Father in heaven!
“God has come to help his people.”