Navigating Israel & Palestine with faith

by Zoe Stratos | opinions editor

Feb. 17, 2022

The long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is driven by several factors: ethnic, historical, national and religious; It is a multilayered conflict, one with issues and possible solutions that far surpass the allotted space for an opinion regarding the dispute. It can never quite be pinned down by simplicity, but with enough work, these two states can coexist with one another.

Both confined to a small landmass just east of the Mediterranean sea, Palestinians and Israelis assert the land as their own, with claims to it dating back thousands of years. Over the course of the 20th century, both sides have fought with gruesome outcomes — and still neither officially control it.

To add onto the confusion, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times and destroyed twice. The city was ruled by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Israelites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Byzantines, the Islamic Caliphates, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and finally the British, before its division into Israeli and Jordanian sectors from 1948 to 1967.

It can be argued that at the core of this conflict is religion. Both states fight for the sanctity of holy sites, including the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and more. Even through the constant struggle between the two, they are very similar in faith, and with a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia across the world, these states can get along — a two-state solution remains the most viable.

The fact of the matter is, on a religious front, Muslims and Jews historically have not been at odds. Additionally, both religions more so support than oppose one another as two of the three major monotheistic faiths. 

According to, the Qur’ān refers to Jews and Christians as people of the book, meaning that they have a special place and treatment in Islamic faith because of their similarities in belief systems. Both religions worship the same prophets, who predominantly resided in the holy city of Jerusalem.

As for smaller, yet still important, parts of their religions, both preach similar dietary restrictions, circumcision traditions, prayer schedules and modesty for women.

It’s been a tragedy to see the religious division between the two states, when in reality, they both just want to freely worship in their homeland. Zionists in Israel see themselves as guardians of the Jewish state, while Islamist groups advocate the liberation of the holy territories. If their faiths are so similar, sharing the same core values, why do they still denounce one another?

Between the onslaught of religious propaganda perpetuated by the media and worsening socio-economic conditions forcing youth into radicalism, it seems nothing will ever bring these two religions back to a peaceful coexistence in this region.

But there’s a moral core to the two-state solution as well: sovereignty for two peoples, each with a history of victimization that led them to desire a government for and run by their own people.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only a fight for individual rights — it’s a struggle for collective rights between two distinct people, but a one-state solution will only aggravate tensions. Depriving Israeli Jews of a Jewish state or Palestinians of a Palestinian state would destroy one of the group’s aspirations for the other’s. A one-state solution would annihilate any chance of an Israeli nation; They are far outnumbered in population in West Bank settlements.

To overcome that, leaders and citizens on both sides need to alter their end-goals: Jews would need to reject Zionism and Palestinians reject Palestinian nationalism, to an extent. Though not impossible, it is extremely difficult to achieve in such a long-standing dispute.

Recently, discussion has once again ensued in pursuing a two-state solution, even with analysts’ and experts’ claims that Israel has completely ruined the chance. Although pointing out the failures and shortcomings thus far in the solution, the two-state option is still the most viable for the Israeli and Palestinian masses.

It seems that the only way to achieve the far-off goal of a two-state system is to ditch the rosy peace talks, and set the record straight on Israel, who at this point, has the upper hand. The United States must begin using their leverage to push back on Israel, blocking use of weapons when they push their apartheid regime.

It also includes the U.S. and other international actors reconciling relations between Hamas and Fatah to create a unified Palestinian leadership. Once this happens, the two-state negotiations can begin, one option being a two-state arrangement with permanent citizenship in the other state. This would allow for dual sovereignty of holy territories.

Between the two religions themselves, steps can be taken to cultivate peace: interfaith dialogue; the remembrance of past support shared by Jews and Muslims; and focus on the positivity and kindness toward others in their respective religious texts. These are not new ideas, however they would centrify religion once more, rather than the lies fed to them by radicals.

There is no certainty in how long it will take for peace, nor if it ever will be achieved, but the best step moving forward isn’t violence, nor working toward the impossible; We must continue rethinking the strategy used thus far, and start relying on tradition within faith.