The phrase “Holy Land” makes no sense unless we are to understand that land as an altar on which human blood has to be continually shed in sacrifice to the gods of intolerance, hatred, and war.
Behind the Israeli occupation and the illegal settlement process of Palestine there is the meaningless rhetoric of the land being Jewish land. Archaeology is forever pulled into the conflict to prove that some two thousand years ago the people who lived and worked on those barren hills were Jewish, and so the soil itself should now be Jewish soil. Muslim Arabs and Christians will make similar arguments about the holiness of Jerusalem to their faiths and the need to spill blood – if necessary – to maintain their foothold on a few square miles of desert. Shlomo Sand tears the veneer of holiness from the land when he describes how he and his battalion of Israeli soldiers treated the Palestinians of Jerusalem when, in 1967, Israel took the Old City:
Out of respect for the observant Jews among us, we relieved ourselves on the walls of the houses across the way. This enabled us to avoid “desecrating” the outer support of the wall of the Temple Mount, which Herod and his descendants, who had allied themselves with the Romans, had constructed with enormous stones in an effort to exalt their tyrannical regime.
– The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012), 3.
Holiness is performance. If we learn anything from Jesus’ “pearls before swine” it is that the pigs don’t give a crap what is holy and what is not. Holiness is what we say it is and we make it so by how we choose to perform around those things we have declared holy. Pissing all over the lives and homes of other people so as to preserve something that we deem holy rather defeats the purpose. In this regard the Palestinian homes urinated on by the Israeli soldiers serves too as a metaphor. Holy War in the Holy Land has been nothing – from the time of the Bible until now – but a continual act of pissing over people’s lives.
Holiness loses all meaning when it requires the degrading of other people, and this is ultimately what war is all about. War demands that its belligerents put the holiness of place over the real holiness of human lives and in so doing put aside their own holiness to take the lives of others. Jerusalem and all of Palestine are only as holy as the lives of the people who give it life. When anyone – in the name of whatever god – destroys the lives of the people who give it life they make an altar of sacrifice, and on it spill human blood to unholy gods. So long as this blood flows there is no hope of holiness in the land. Violence, as the prophets say, pollutes the land and makes it unholy.