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Children of Abraham

September 30, 1996



The latest heart-breaking events in Israel plead for radical reliance on the deep religious heritage of Jews, Arabs, and Christians joining in the peace process or looking on with compassion from afar. All three groups trace this heritage back to the patriarch Abraham and his break with pagan superstition to honor one God. They all - we all - possess the spiritual resources to turn from the bloody results of a divisive tunnel in Jerusalem to the healing landmark of Abraham's reverenced cave.

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The tunnel is an archaeological one. Violence came when Israel opened a new entrance to it near a mosque. The cave and a field were bought in Hebron - historically seen as Abraham's first clear ownership of part of the Promised Land. There his two sons came together to bury him - Isaac, continuing the Hebrew line; and Ishmael, ancestor of the Arabs.

Abraham was the "the father of many nations," as the Lord said in changing his name from Abram in the Old Testament. How unlikely it now seems for the family to get together. Yet the past two decades have seen steps of peace between Arabs and Jews that seemed no less unlikely until people on both sides began following, in effect, their patriarch's conciliatory footsteps.

The people of wealthy Abram "could not dwell together" with the people of his nephew Lot. But Abram did not fight or threaten. He gave Lot his choice of lands in some of the most memorable words in Genesis: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren." Abraham "showed the life-preserving power of spiritual understanding," as the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, put it.

The urgency of preserving lives in Israel and the Palestinian territories is tragically plain. Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres made some useful points last week: Replace "peace for peace" with peace-in-exchange-for-something. Replace "security before peace" with recognition that peace brings security. Don't "slow the peace process" - the other side may have other ideas.

We will have more to say about political and diplomatic prospects and solutions. Everyone's best thoughts are needed. They will be enhanced by efforts toward that "spiritual understanding" that Abraham demonstrated for all his children.