Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 23:1-4.19.24:1-8.62-67; Matthew 9:9-13)
Today’s first reading mentions Abraham’s attempt to buy land from the Hittites for the burial of his wife. The sale is problematic because Abraham is a resident alien without rights to own territory. Eventually he is granted the right, and a purchase is made. Abraham thus has a foothold in the land that God promised him. In time through work, shrewdness, and conquest, all the land of Canaan will belong to Abraham’s descendants. For this reason Jews today claim a right to settle throughout the region.
Of course, the right of the Jews to the whole region, classically called Palestine, is contested by Arabs. These mostly Muslim people have inhabited Palestine for most of the last millennium and beyond. They resent the recent Jewish settlements in areas beyond the boundaries of modern Israel.
The question of ownership cannot be easily resolved. Do Jews because of their direct descent from Abraham have a divine right to all Palestine? It should be remembered, however, that Abraham is seen as the father in faith to Christians and Muslims as well. As a way to settle the issue of ownership, we might see Jesus as the key figure in bringing about justice for all. Jews and Muslims as well Christians can find in him a brother. Indeed, people throughout the world have a relationship through him to one another. The land belongs to everyone. Nevertheless, for the time being it is expedient that the state of Israel administer it. Its government still has an obligation to see that all people in the region are fairly treated.