When Abram was called by God to leave his country and kindred, he was given a promise. The Lord said to Abram, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2 NRSV). The land that was promised to Abram, the land that would become united as in David’s Kingdom of Israel (you know…from the Bible); divided as Israel and Judah; conquered and conquest-ed, only to be divided again. The land is part of the promise, and in many ways, remains central to people of faith – Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Now, the land, specifically the land of Jerusalem is still central, and in some instances, specifically for Palestinian residents, it must be proven that Jerusalem is at the center of life; central not in the form of a blessing but now as codified, oppressive law. Permanent Residency Status is a legal status for Palestinians who are not considered Israeli citizens (a status very difficult to attain for a Palestinian), yet are residents of Jerusalem. Living in Jerusalem provides for Palestinians a closer connection to family, opportunities for work and education, and close proximity to culture.
From the perspective of the State of Israel, a growing Palestinian populace is considered an existential threat to keeping the Jewish population as the majority. A Jewish nation cannot exist as a Jewish nation unless the majority of the population is Jewish. With the growing trouble of maintaining high birth rates among Israeli-Jews, the other option is to suppress the population numbers of the minority. This issue is being approached in multiple ways, all of which are oppressive and discriminatory towards Palestinians.
“Jerusalem as the Center of Life” laws force Palestinians to be able to at a moments notice prove that Jerusalem is the core of their life. Where do you keep your clothes? Where do you grocery shop? Where do your children go to school? Beyond simple questions, there is the economic liability of taxes that must be paid to the state (though rarely reinvested in Palestinian neighborhoods), which would spell immediate revocation of the Permanent Residency Status. Even aside from oppressive pressures, Israel seeks to relax building laws on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in hopes that Palestinians will exit the city for more affordable housing.
Regardless of tactic, the strategy seems clear: When you can’t produce or maintain the population you need, you reduce the population you don’t want.
God is a blessing. The land promised to Abram is a blessing. Abram, and indeed all of us, are called to be a blessing to others. While some laws have been given in order to bless, many others support oppression, support discrimination, support unfair power structures, and leave little for no room for God’s blessing for us all.