Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sons of Abraham 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, November 7, 2002.

It is difficult to talk for long about the problems associated with the Middle East without mention of the role of religion. The world’s three great monotheistic faiths were all born out of this war torn region; all three claim Jerusalem as a holy city. Yet Jerusalem is not the only thing all three religion’s claim in common. Followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all look to Abraham as the grandfather of their faith.

In the book of Genesis, common to both Jews and Christians, is found the story of Abraham. His first son, Ishmael, was illegitimate, born of the maidservant Hagar. His second son, Isaac, born of his wife Sarah, was to be Abraham’s heir. God spoke to Abraham and told him that the Promised Land would be given over to his children. This is the major source of religious contention in the Arab/Israeli conflict in the Holy Land today. Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians both claim the same land as theirs, given to them by God.

It is of the utmost importance when analyzing conflict to maintain a sharp and long reaching historical memory. One can not look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and only remember the last nine years, nor can one only recall events occurring since 1967, or 1948, and hope to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. It is terribly important to remember history and to look to the foundations of problems if one hopes to understand more fully events happening today.

There has been much talk lately, as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues to rage, about Abraham and the joint heritage these people claim. In the Torah, it is clear that God has given the Promised Land to Abraham’s legitimate son, Isaac (Gen.17:20). Yet Abraham pleaded with God so that God might bestow his favor on Abraham’s other, firstborn son, Ishmael. God responded in kind and blessed Ishmael, making him the father of twelve tribes and a great nation – the Arab nation (Gen. 17:20). This is the point of fissure where Isaac and Ishmael part ways. Abraham divided them, and they remain so today, but if we hope for peace, we must look again to history and see not only the divide, but the peaceful reunion.

Not much else is said of Ishmael in the Torah after this point. However, in the Holy Qur’an, there is a lengthy narrative about him, along with Abraham, founding the religion of Islam. The Qur’an posits that Abraham was a Muslim and not a Jew, and that together with Ishmael they built the Ka’ba, the House of God (Surah II, Sec 15). It is clear, in both traditional narratives, that Abraham loved his son Ishmael as much as he did Isaac, and that he wanted the best for both of his sons. Yet, Abraham was the source of their split; Isaac went to Judaism and Ishmael went to Islam.

With regard to the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land, it is difficult to find a solution by referring to either of these narratives. One will only find the source of the differences. Jews and Muslims alike claim Abraham as the grandfather of their faith, and that cannot be easily reconciled. If the story stopped there, we would only be left with two peoples, claiming the same land and the blessings of the same God. Thankfully, it does not and there is a source of hope in the end.

Just as Abraham divided his two sons, he also brought them back together. When he died, the Torah tells us that both Isaac and Ishmael returned to bury their father (Gen. 25:9-10). When they came together again, there is no mention of hatred, no mention of violence, no mention of disagreement. For his burial, Abraham’s sons were reunited and it was a reunion of peace. After they buried their father, it is written that they both went their separate ways. There was no war. There was no anger. There was only peaceful silence.

It is here that we must turn if we seek a historical, peaceful solution. Israelis and Palestinians alike should acknowledge their common ancestry and their different heritages. If one were to read the story allegorically, Abraham was the cause of his sons’ dispute, and when he died, they came together again in peace to bury not only their father, but also their differences. They departed from one another in peace. Some say that the solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is two separate states, whereas others postulate that the ideal would be one state with two peoples living together in peace. I do not know which is the better answer, but I will hope for the solution that brings peace to the Holy Land, once and for all.


the jews are not abrahams seed. they are not the true seed of isaac. abraham, isaac, ishmael, and the rest were from africa. africa is black. there was no such people as jews back them. they have perperprated a fraud and lies. these so-called jews are germans pure and simple. the real truth is going to come out real soon. words have been changed in the bible to suit these peoples lies. there was not such people as jew back then

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:49 PM  

All people are descendants of Africa, the cradle of mankind. Populations that wandered north became lighter skinned and thinner-nosed to adapt to their environment. Jewish-Arab fratricide perpetuates the curse of Cain & Abel. Jews and Arabs (including dark skinned Arabs!) have more in common genetically than they do with any other peoples in the world! The only way there will be peace between the sons of Abraham is the return of the Lamb of God to this earth.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 PM  

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