June 3, 2021

Whose Side Is God On? (Part One)

Inside This Episode

It’s a tract of land no larger than Massachusetts, but in terms of its geopolitical importance, the Holy Land is larger than life. In the aftermath of recent escalations in violence between Hamas militants and Israel’s defense forces, Maybe God presents a series of honest, raw conversations from the Holy Land between host Eric Huffman and real people on all sides of this consequential crisis.

Part one of "Whose Side Is God On?" features Holy Land author and scholar John A. Beck and a Palestinian woman named Ranya who lives under Israeli occupation in Jerusalem. Listen to Part Two here: https://maybegodpod.com/whose-side-is-god-on-part-two/


Join The Community

Maybe God Newsletter

  • Be the first to know about new episodes
  • Exclusive content
  • Resources to help you reconstruct and grow your faith

Featured Author

John A. Beck


Woman: You are stealing my house.

Yacob: And if I don't steal it, someone else is gonna steal it.

Woman: No one is allowed to steal it.

Eric Huffman: It started with an uptick in violence in Jerusalem after more than a dozen Palestinian families faced eviction from their homes. Jewish settlers claimed the land belongs to them.

Woman: Yacob, you know this is not your house.

Yacob: Yes. But if I go, you don't go back. So what's the problem? Why are you yelling at me? I didn't do this. I didn't do this. It's easy to yell at me, but I didn't do this.

Woman: You are stealing my house.

Eric Huffman: The violence escalated as the Islamic militant group Hamas retaliated by launching thousands of rockets into Israel, which led Israel's army to respond with devastating attacks that killed 248 Palestinians.

Woman: Dozens of rockets launched from Gaza Street over Israel tonight with heavy Israeli airstrikes and returns as violence spiral between Israelis and Palestinians.

Woman: I say to myself, why do we deserve this? What did you do for this?

Man: Among the dead in another Israeli airstrike this morning, an 11-year-old boy.

Eric Huffman: On May 20th, after 11 days of violence, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.

Tonight, both sides say they have agreed to stop the relentless bombing that has killed more than 200 people. But tonight Gaza is largely without power and water and Israel is still reeling from 11 days in the crosshairs of an estimated 4,000 Hamas rockets, all of which is to say that tonight's truce is fragile at best.

Eric Huffman: Today on Maybe God, how did a remote region no larger than the state of Massachusetts become the most sought-after property on planet Earth? The Maybe God team is on the ground in the Holy Land with stories of real people on both sides of this conflict between Israel and Palestine. We traveled across the world searching for answers to the quagmire that politics, governments, and wars have been unable to provide. When it comes to the Holy Land, whose side is God on?


Eric Huffman: You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman. When I first visited the Holy Land in 2013, I was a naive 34-year-old pastor on a mission to learn how my church could better support oppressed Palestinians in their struggle against Zionism. The highlight of my trip turned out to have nothing to do with Palestinians or Zionists however, because one afternoon in Capernaum, I had an experience with God that changed my life forever.

In the eight years since that day, I've spoken nonstop about my Capernaum conversion. But Jesus wasn't the only man who changed my life on that trip. One day while visiting a Palestinian refugee camp, I struck up a conversation with a man named Yousef, a 30-something Palestinian who told me how years before he was born, Israeli soldiers forced his grandfather to leave their family home. They said it was for the family's own protection. Then they transported Yousef's grandparents and their children to a temporary encampment for refugees, assuring the family that they would be allowed to return home within a few weeks.

Yousef's grandfather never made it home. Instead, he lived for 40 long years in that same refugee camp until he died. I'll never forget the agony in Yousef's eyes as he told me about his grandfather. His voice trembled with desperation. He cried like a man whose pain had no remedy.

Fast forward seven years to January 2020, just weeks before COVID shut the whole world down, I led a group of 60 people from my church to the Holy Land. Maybe God producer Julie Mirlicourtois came with us so, of course, she seized every opportunity to record interviews with the most fascinating people we could find, no matter what side of the conflict they were on.

Even though our entire group, including Julie and I, came down with some mystery virus that we're all now convinced must have been COVID-19, we captured some of the most compelling interviews I've ever been a part of. When we got back home, the pandemic shut everything down. And we didn't know what to do with all this great material. So we sat on it for over a year until last month when tensions once again boiled over between mean Palestinians and Jewish settlers.

This episode of Maybe God is going to feel different than most. I'm going to be doing a lot more listening than talking. And you're going to find the lack of solutions to this conflict entirely unsatisfying. It's all very complicated. That's why I asked Dr. Jack Beck, an accomplished scholar, author and pastor who specializes in biblical geography to help set the table. Jack is an adjunct faculty member at Jerusalem University College, and he spends several weeks a year teaching field study classes in the Holy Land.

Obviously, there's the spiritual connections to Jesus in biblical connections, but what is it about the land that intrigues you so much that you'd want to dedicate your whole life to it?

Dr. Jack Beck: I think it's because of God's geo speak. God has chosen to say some of the things to me through language that in the Bible that is eminently geographical. Whether it's a place name, whether it's the direction the wind is coming from, whether it's an animal that's being mentioned in a metaphor, I try to understand that reality so that I can better understand the essence of the communication.

Eric Huffman: Whenever you take groups to Israel or to the Holy Land, I'm sure you face all kinds of questions from people who may not have a lot of knowledge about what's going on there, what's been happening there for generations. As the expert, how do you explain the crisis in three minutes or less?

Dr. Jack Beck: I can do it in even less. You know, sin has ruined the world and it's pretty evident in the Holy Land.

Eric Huffman: That'll do it.

Dr. Jack Beck: Yeah. You know, there's two things that people, I think, find most surprising, and I'm glad to share them with you. The first thing is the labels that they had here are all wrong for there. So whether that be the label Jew, Arab, Israeli, Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, the culmination of attachments that they expected are not the culmination of attachment that they get.

I think where it sort of blows up when they meet people from Thai Bay, which is a Christian village in the West Bank, and they meet people who are Christian, who speaks Arabic, and trace their lineage descended to Abraham. And they have West Bank identity cards. It sort of explodes all of the labels we think we know how to assign.

And then the second thing they're surprised by is the fact that the past is the present. And there's one story that sticks out in my mind that really illustrates this better than any other that I can think of. We tend to work at Jerusalem University College with Airbus drivers because we do a lot of running in and out of the West Bank. So we ended up finding that to be an easier glide with Airbus company.

So I was with Mohammed, gentleman I've known for quite as long as I've taught in the land. And we were coming up on Tel Azekah, which has a little one-lane road that goes up to the summit. That's where we were headed. There was a Jewish family on Shabbat who was coming back down from the top and we're nose to nose bus to car, and we're stopped.

And I'm looking at my watch going, "I got places to be, things to do." I look at Muhammed, Muhammed looks at me, he takes his bottle of water out, take several sips out of it, looks back at me, and says, "My great great grandparents were in the land long before their family came from Europe." And that's how we were going to solve this traffic dilemma. We weren't going to backup because the bus was easier to backup or the car was easy to backup. We were deciding this present event on a past event.

And if there's one legacy that lives in the Holy Land, in my experience and working with people there, is that whatever happened in the past continues to be our present. And it ended when that observant Jewish family backed up and let us go through. I have no idea why they made that decision, but I know that Muhammed was of no mind to move that bus.

Eric Huffman: Oh, wow. That is a great little story to kind of sum up in microcosm exactly what's going on and how unfixable it seems. When did this conflict begin in your mind? At least the modern iteration of this conflict, when did it start?

Dr. Jack Beck: The people who messed this up are the Europeans after World War I, who began assigning geographic boundaries without respect for water rights or past history and religious... You know, they just put lines on a map.

Eric Huffman: In the Holy Land?

Dr. Jack Beck: Pretty much in the Holy Land.

Eric Huffman: What lines did they draw?

Dr. Jack Beck: Well, the Partition Plan, right? So we've got Israel and Jordan. I mean, all of those states essentially are modern states. Ancient labels but modern states.

Eric Huffman: If you need a little more background here, the area known as Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire until 1970. Great Britain took control of Palestine after World War I, and pushed to establish a new Jewish homeland in the area. Israel became an independent state in 1948 after the Second World War.

Dr. Jack Beck: I think 1967 in many respects, that's when the West Bank became the occupied territories, the West Bank of the modern state of Jordan became occupied by the modern state of Israel when Gaza was invaded, and you ended up with all the pieces sort of set on the table at that point.

Eric Huffman: What Jack is referring to here is the six-day war when Israel took control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Jordan.

Dr. Jack Beck: Everything, in one way or another, in my mind sort of goes back to that moment because the assumption was, this will get fixed pretty quickly. If you have a modern state invading and occupying a piece of real estate, the expectation is, you're not going to want to stay, you're going to find a solution that moves us all forward, and away we go.

That assumption has been defeated time and time and time again. Its efforts have been made to undo that occupied territory issue. So you have the frustration built on one side and you have the frustration built on the other side. And most of my friends are not in the extreme positions on either side of this pulling at the ends of the rope. There are somewhere in the middle of finding their lives getting yanked one way or another by the groups that are more extreme in their views of what to do with this 1967 debacle.

Eric Huffman: Could you explain the two extremes and what those are?

Dr. Jack Beck: Well, on the one hand, we've got a Jewish-Israeli group. And really it's beyond modern state of Israel too and really an international Zionist group that says, "Look, this is historically our land and we see it as ours." Now how do you figure out how is it yours? Is it by historic right? Is it religious right? There's no consensus on exactly what that is.

And then on the other side, you have an equally zealous Arab Palestinian group that says, We want to go back to the way it was in the 19th century when this was Ottoman Turkish country, and the Jewish community doesn't have a right to exist here. The modern state was imposed in 1947/48 and ought not be here.

Eric Huffman: What do the two sides want? If each side could wave a magic wand, what would it look like in the end?

Dr. Jack Beck: I think in my mind that what both sides want is that the other goes away from the space. We don't share, it's our space. Of course, the international position has been, we are shared this space, and then let's see if we can find a way to negotiate this out so that it's shared space. You know, whether a two-state solution, or you have an Israeli state and a Palestinian state, or an all-Israeli state with a greatly enhanced Arab voter bloc that would come out of the West Bank, none of those solutions have found home, and unfortunately, have been leveraged and politicized by both camps.

Eric Huffman: What do moderate Palestinians say about this? What do non-extremist Jewish folks believe that live there?

Dr. Jack Beck: In my view, when I hear them speak, they're looking for a compromise that allows everyone to have a share in this land. Now, not every Israeli Jewish person or Arab Israeli person, or Arab Palestinian person is going to have the same idea of what that sharing looks like. But generally, the view that there's lots of resources here, including tourism that pumps a significant amount of money into the land, this is something that we can share.

I think I most appreciate my Christian friends who would say, we really are the key to this. We're the minority but we are the key to this because what else can bridge this sort of intractable gap than forgiveness and the love of Jesus? And if we could only advance that into this conversation, we could end up in a place where we would have forgiveness and sharing of space in a way that we had never before.

Eric Huffman: Amen. You know, the problem, I guess, as best I can tell, seems to be that the numbers are working against us in that regard. Like there just aren't enough Christians in the land to make that case in a compelling way. Is that fair?

Dr. Jack Beck: That's absolutely fair. So you know, the numbers vary, but they hover around 1%. So that isn't that a mountain-moving force? In fact, I mean, ironically, even in the modern state of Israel, religion isn't a particularly strong motivating force.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Dr. Jack Beck: Seventy-some percent of modern Israelis are secularists and do not have a religious affiliation. So you end up with really a more secular approach to the entire enterprise dominating rather than even a religious one.

Eric Huffman: One of the things that confuses me as a layman on this issue is how Israel claims the land is theirs without the biblical or theological lens.

Dr. Jack Beck: Well, of course, there are some who would make that argument. But if modern Israeli Jewish folks, only about 30% are observant Jewish, so those are the folks who are going to be authentically making that argument. But you will have another layer of folks who look at it from a historical perspective, and say that we have an historic right to this space. And even though they may not use the Bible as the authority there, they'll use the authority of archaeology. And archaeology can be pressed into service of this argument.

The thing that seems to bear the greatest weight in terms of this decision-making is simply because we can. And because we have the more well-developed military because we have the better developed international relationships, we can.

Eric Huffman: How does the archaeology play into the favor of the Israelite argument here?

Dr. Jack Beck: Well, I think that there's really good evidence in support of the biblical history of that era. That's a debated issue. So, for example, David, he has been contested. That takes us back to about 1011 BC. And we got some archaeology, both in Jerusalem and at a place called Sha'araim that I think is very strong. It indicates there was a very powerful centralized government that was able to do some pretty significant defense of architecture. We have a palace in Jerusalem that dates nicely into the box of David. But, you know, at some point you have to decide, well, when do we stop the clock? Right?

So if we stopped the clock in the 19 century, now we're in an era of Ottoman Empire. So that can be our touchstone. Or we stopped that clock, sometime before the arrival of Abraham and we have Canaanites in the land. I mean, there's a second layer of argument there that has to be weighed, which is, All right, why is the clock being punched here?

Eric Huffman: Why are so many Palestinian people, multiple generations of families living in refugee camps now for 40 years? Refugee camps should be a temporary stop, right? It doesn't seem like that should go on for more than four decades. What's happening there?

Dr. Jack Beck: So dial that went back into the mid-20th century. Again, the founding of the modern state of Israel. You immediately have the initiation of what's called a war of independence. And that war of independence results in atrocities on all sides. Now, this is Arab states coming and attacking modern State of Israel because they don't want modern State of Israel to exist. But internally, within the boundaries of the modern state of Israel, you have land confiscation going on both ways and atrocities going on both ways.

And the biggest loser in that were the Arab people who then were forced into refugee camps in Jordan and other places because their native space was taken away from them. And today in the West Bank are occupied territories that refugee plight continues because we have the issue of the settlements. Now we have the often seizing of land that might belong to an Arab-Palestinian family and they're displaced.

The problem of return has been complicated by we don't have a place to which to return. So what space can I go back to? And there are folks who are waiting and have been waiting for, you know, the restoration of family heritage land, whether it's in West Bank or modern State of Israel.

Eric Huffman: I mean, just the thing you keep coming back to is based on everything that's happening, there's just... ah, there's no easy answer. But I'm sure every other person that goes on tour with you over there to tour around the Holy Land every other American has their answer, right? Like, why don't they just (fill in the blank)?

Dr. Jack Beck: Usually they bring them. People bring them but they don't leave with the same answer.

Eric Huffman: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Jack Beck: We love easy answers. There are none in this space.

Eric Huffman: Right.


Eric Huffman: One of the first people that I sat down with in the Holy Land knows very well that there are no easy answers in this space. She has personally witnessed the devastating impact that displacement and occupation can have on multiple generations of the same family.

So would you just tell us who you are and where you're from?

Ranya: I'm a Palestinian Jerusalemite person. My name is Ranya [inaudible 00:21:08]. I live in the Old City of Jerusalem. I'm a mother for two children, now they are young, married to a Palestinian living in the West Bank. I had lots of struggle because being a Jerusalemite doesn't have a Palestinian actually, doesn't have all the rights any human beings in the world could have: the freedom of choice, freedom of marriage, freedom of movement, etc., etc.

I think I had a very tough life being, you know, separated from living with my husband in the West Bank, because he's from West Bank and there is no possible reunion. Then they frozen all the applications for a long time, the Israelis for to be the reunion with your spouse. So actually, I'm example of thousands of Palestinian women struggling for being able to live and have a freedom or having a normal life as any person in this globe.

Eric Huffman: Ranya and I sat down at my groups' hotel in the city of Bethlehem just a few blocks away from the birthplace of Jesus, and just around the corner from the West Bank barrier wall. Israel started building the wall in the early 2000s, separating the occupied territories of the West Bank from the rest of Israel. Israel describes the wall as a necessary security barrier against terrorism. Palestinians call it a symbol of racial segregation or an apartheid wall.

Ranya's husband Yousef is the same man who in 2013 told me about his grandfather who died in the refugee camp. Although Yousef was born in the squalor of that same camp, he somehow managed to go to college at Bethlehem University. That's where he met Ranya. And after they graduated in 1996, they got married. Due to the complexities of their life in Palestine, their marriage hasn't been easy. Ranya lives in East Jerusalem, but Yousef still calls the refugee camp and the West Bank his home.

And just for my own sake, could you explain the difference between a Jerusalemite and Palestinian? You said you're both but I think most Americans think Jerusalem is Israel.

Ranya: I'm a Palestinian who have begun by chance to be living in Jerusalem.

Eric Huffman: Were you born in Jerusalem?

Ranya: Yes, I was born. My father and my grandfather, my grand grandfather, we are all born in Jerusalem. By chance, it's you know, you never choose where to be born or to live, you know? So Jerusalem had a special status now because in Jerusalem, there are Palestinians living in Jerusalem and they have the Jerusalemite ID. We are not citizens. I'm not an Israeli citizen. I don't have the full rights like Israeli citizen.

If you ask me what is my nationality, in the last, say, past year, the Israeli let's say past years they are saying that I'm Jordanian. For Jordan, I don't have the national number, only a Jordanian passport just to pass, you know, to travel. I don't have any rights the Jordanians have. Maybe seems complicated, but this is the case.

Eric Huffman: So you don't vote.

Ranya: I don't vote.

Eric Huffman: But you do obviously pay taxes.

Ranya: Of course. We pay taxes. Actually, we pay by the law the amount that we have to pay, but actually we don't receive the same services that Israeli neighborhoods that they have. For example, the wages, we don't receive the wages as an Israeli living in Jerusalem. So we end up paying the same taxes as an Israeli but we don't have the benefits and privilege, you know-

Eric Huffman: The representation and all that.

Ranya: The representation that the Israeli have in Jerusalem. As a Palestinians, we have... it's a difficult life. It's not an easy life.

Eric Huffman: Tell me about it.

Ranya: We have to fight it. You have to fight for your living. You have to fight for a job. You have to fight for everything you need, to build a house, to have all the, you know, status, you know, to have all the authorities, acceptance. You know, it's a hard life. It's not easy.

Eric Huffman: Ranya's hometown, Jerusalem, is just five miles away from Bethlehem and probably the most contested piece of land in the area. Jerusalem is revered as a holy city by all three Abrahamic faiths, by Jews because it's where King David established his kingdom around 1,000 years before Christ. By Christians because it's where Jesus was killed and buried before His resurrection around 30 AD and by Muslims because according to the Quran, Jerusalem was the last place Mohammed visited before He ascended to heaven.

From 1950 to 1980, East Jerusalem belonged to the Kingdom of Jordan and Palestinian leaders declared East Jerusalem the official capital of Palestine. In 1980, Israel officially absorbed East Jerusalem and proclaimed the whole of Jerusalem to be its capital.

Ranya: The most heart-aching issue for me is my capital, my Jerusalem. This is a daily suffer and daily... You see them changing your cities, you know, views and you see Harold's Gate... When you see Harold's gate and you see all the changes and how they are changing your memories because it is part of you. Living in a place like Jerusalem is a very special, really special experience. So seeing all the changes, and the most, I say, shocking incident that happens is the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital for Israel by the USA government.

Eric Huffman: It's a big, big deal.

Ranya: Of course.

Eric Huffman: Tell me why.

Ranya: Because it's not. It's simply like that. Who said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? When Israel was founded? Who founded Israel? Who said it's the land for Jews? People sitting on a table like this, the Balfour Declaration, they wanted to take the Jewish issue from Europe. So they were looking for a land and they chose three different countries and then they say it's Palestine. Is that right for a Jew to come here in Palestine and have my home that I have in Jerusalem and live in it right now? My grand grandfather, they had the house in West Jerusalem. Now, if I go to that house, I don't know which nationality, who's living there.

Eric Huffman: Someone else is living in the same house?

Ranya: Yes.

Eric Huffman: How does that feel?

Ranya: Devastating. If you want to judge a person, put yourself in his shoes. Imagine you have a house, you are living in a house with a garden, with a small pool, and having a big family living in that house. And suddenly, you have to take all your things, get out of that house, and somebody else living in your house. So it's heartbreaking, it's devastating. It's a disastrous experience for any person.

Eric Huffman: Who told your great-grandfather to move and what did they say?

Ranya: My grandparents' mother was making the dough to make bread and suddenly it was spread in the neighborhood is that Israel is they are coming, the Jews are coming and they will harm you, they will kill you. They were afraid about even raping Palestinian, Arab women or Muslim women. So they were afraid.

My family they were living normally. My grand grandmother was preparing the dough. She said okay, "We will live and when we come back, the dough will be ready. But actually they couldn't come back again. And they lost all their belongings. Even they have lands, they have two houses, they have their money. Everything. It's stealing. It's robbing you. Stealing something from you.

Eric Huffman: Can any part of you, in your heart or your mind ever sympathize with any Israelite claim to the land?

Ranya: Never. Never. I'm being honest with you.

Eric Huffman: I appreciate it.

Ranya: Maybe some people will find it radical to say that, but it's my land. It's my right there to be in this country. Who gives you the right to exile me from my house? You know, going back to the history, I think before Balfour Declaration, Jews started to buy lands in Palestine. I think reading the history, if they just came as people who want to live there with the lands that they bought or with the house that we have, for example, I think it would be enormous thing maybe to happen. Maybe.

Because I remember my grandmother would say to us that when they were living in the West Bank, they have Jewish neighbors, and they were living in a very comfortable way. If they want to go to a wedding, their children will stay with the Palestinian families to babysit them. So I think it was very safe way living together. We didn't have any problem with them being neighbors or living here in Palestine, but they came in a very criminal way and bloody way.

Eric Huffman: The latest violence that erupted in the Gaza Strip, the worst the region has seen since 2014, was sparked by Jewish settlers' efforts to evict Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. Many of these Palestinian families have been in their homes since the 1950s after they were driven out of West Jerusalem during Israel's war for independence.

That's when the UN-funded a Jordanian project to build homes for displaced Palestinians. But some of the land involved was owned by two Jewish associations before Israel became a nation-state in 1948. These Jerusalemites like Ranya have the right to claim Israeli citizenship, which would in theory entitle her to certain privileges and protections under Israel's constitution. Ranya has refused to become an Israeli. When I asked her why she said...

Ranya: I'm a Palestinian. If I apply for Israeli citizen, then what will I gain? What will I lose? I will lose my respect to myself, I would lose the respect of the community. Some people they have the Israeli citizenship but they don't declare it, you know, worldwide. I can't. This is me. I cannot even jeopardize having my Jerusalemite ID for me because I was born in Jerusalem, it's my capital, it's my land. It is me. It is part of your childhood, your memories, your-

Eric Huffman: It's a treasure.

Ranya: I cannot easily, you know, be detached from who I am to become a new person with a Jewish. That is recognizing that Israeli citizenship in Palestine is fine, it's okay. And I'm against that. I will never accept Israelis living in Palestine, occupying Palestine. I will never recognize it. Let us live because I have children and I don't want my children to live the same life I lived.

Eric Huffman: What do you tell your kids?

Ranya: I don't tell them anything, they see everything with their eyes. I experienced two times the Israeli soldiers, they pointed their guns to my child. One at the checkpoint, one it was in Herod's Gate. He was coming back from school and I was waiting in my car but the police was saying, you know, "Move, move your car. Move, move your car." So I have to make around.

During my round, I saw the soldiers and the police and Special Forces yelling at my son and pointing guns and they asked him to put down his back on the ground. And during that, I stopped my car in the middle of the road and I was running towards my kid and saying to the soldiers and yelling, "He's my son. He's my son," and they were going to collapse because seeing the scene is... I will never in my life forget that.

When they saw me running and saying, "He's my son. He's my son," they asked him to pull up his shirt, and then they asked me to stay away from him, not to get close, and also pointing their guns towards me. It's hard to find the word even for this terrible, terrible experience because they had the full right to shoot any person who may threaten them. But he was a schoolboy.

When you put a kid in this position on this experience, I'm not teaching him anything., he's experiencing by himself.

Eric Huffman: That day I met Ranya's husband, Yousef, in the refugee camp that he calls home. He said something to my group that stuck with me. He said, "I hate to tell you this because you all look like very nice people, but you are the reason for all of my problems." I asked Ranya to help me understand what he meant that day.

Ranya: We love American people because we feel that they are kind-hearted people. But our problem with the Americans is that they are so naive about what is going on about the real conflict, the real suffering. And why you are the reason because financially the U.S. government is supporting annually $3 billion foreign military financing, for example, and arming Israel and developing all their weapons. The citizens are supporting that and they are not very aware of what is going on, what is the real case.

Eric Huffman: When you think about people like me and the hundreds of millions of others that are back home in America, who frankly, I'm sorry to say, know very little about you and your struggle, what do you want us to know about you?

Ranya: I want the whole world to know that I'm a Palestinian who was deprived from living peacefully. Palestine is very interesting, very beautiful country. But when you travel with the car across the West Bank, and you see the settlements here and there cutting the villages from each other, seeing the apartheid wall separating people and families from each other, it's all heartbreaking. Why I have to live this tragedy? What is my fault, what is my guilt to be punished in this way? Why all people living in Gaza or living in West Bank they cannot go to Jerusalem and pray and see Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray? They have to have permission.

Eric Huffman: We probably don't agree on everything but Jesus never said agree with one another. He said love one another. And at least I can do my best to love you as a sister created in the image of God. And at least I can just step back from the intensity of the argument and feel your pain as much as I can. I think that's where the real good stuff happens. That's where the hope is.

I don't know what it's like to live every moment of every day of every year of your life being insulted. If I'm ever insulted, I find a remedy. I have that power. And I recognize that. And I also recognize that not having that power would drive me absolutely insane to the point of depression. And I don't know where you find the strength to keep fighting. I don't have that strength.  At some point just for sheer comfort and convenience, I would probably sell out and you have not. And I honor that. I respect that.

Ranya: I believe that God gave us something special and our belief in our God in Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, my belief that one day this country will return back to the Palestinian because this is [inaudible 00:40:00]. I don't know how, I don't know when. I'm not against Jewish people as a people or a nation, I'm against Zionism, I'm against the occupation. Occupation isn't related to something happy that you come to visit me and they have to open my house to you and to sit together, and we have food, you know.

Occupation, having occupying your land, occupying your life, they took everything from us. This is how I feel it. I really would like to talk about the bad things but actually, this is the case, and this is my emotions and feelings, you know, that I lived. So I'm sorry. I really would like to be more, you know-

Eric Huffman: Cheerful?

Ranya: Cheerful. But you asked me to be myself and to talk about my feelings. I'm really being honest with you in every word. And this is what I feel at this moment as a Palestinian.

Eric Huffman: That was about as uncomfortable as I've ever felt during an interview, not because of Ranya. She was just being honest about her story. My discomfort stemmed from someplace else from within my own heart. As Ranya spoke, I realized how naive that I've always been my whole life. Even when I was a self-proclaimed pro-Palestinian activist, I was too busy pretending to be outraged on Facebook, to really listen to people's stories. But to truly understand the emotional toll this conflict has taken on people like Ranya.

I used to think the solution to a problem like this must be political. But one thing Jesus has shown me over the past eight years is that the only way to really change the world is by changing human hearts. If Ranya's story made you feel uncomfortable, I encourage you to go back and listen to it again and again and again. Listen to what she's saying until you're able to imagine yourself in her shoes and your kids and her kids' shoes, and realize that if you were dealt the same hand as Ranya, you'd feel the same way she does.

After speaking with Ranya, we were curious to hear another perspective. I asked our guide to find someone we could talk to who is Ranya's opposite. And that's exactly what he did.

Bob Lang: Hi this is Bob Lang.

Eric Huffman: Bob Lang, Eric Huffman. Nice to meet you.

On part two of Whose Side is God On?, you'll hear my captivating interview with a man from New York who lives in the West Bank. He insists that this land is his rightful home, although most of his Arab neighbors vehemently disagree.

Bob Lang: A Jewish state, obviously we hope and believe that the vast majority of the population of the country will be Jewish.

Daoud Nassar: And we obviously understand that we have better winds, Muslims, Christians, and Jews living here as well. They're not Jewish, and we have no desire to make them Jewish or to push them out.

Eric Huffman: We'll also share one man's story that I believe holds the key to solving this complicated puzzle. In the modern-day Holy Land, this man is an enigma. He's Arab, but not Muslim. He prays to the God of the Old Testament, but he's not Jewish. Extremists on either side call him an enemy, but he insists that his only enemies are Satan and fear. Trust me guys, you don't want to miss part two of Maybe God's trip to the Holy Land. Thanks for listening.

Julie Mirlicourtois: This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois, Andrea Gentle, and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. A special thanks to our sound engineers in the Holy Land, Nathan Bonus and Ryan Scott, and to our incredible guides, Peter Miano and Bert Gary. As always, our talented editors are Shannon Stephen and Justin Mayer, and our social media guru is Kat Brough. For more information about Maybe God and to connect with us online, head to maybegodpod.com today. And please don't forget to leave us your glowing reviews on Apple.