It is most unlikely that a completely unbiased book regarding Arabs and/or Jews exists, and the existence of an unbiased reader is even less likely. But that shouldn’t discourage us from reading such books; it’s just an incentive to pray for discernment concerning other people’s biases, and a willingness to admit our own.
There is no doubt that some of Israel’s best friends are Christians.” At the same time, a growing trend among Christians prevents many from extending to Israel the friendship she so urgently needs. More and more seem to feel that support of Israel would justify or perhaps even add to the suffering of Palestinians.
We would not ignore or minimize that suffering, nor insist that Israel has had absolutely no part in it. Yet we recognize that the media continually use that suffering, often unfairly or “un-factually,” to besmirch Israel’s reputation. We need resources to put in the hands of Christian friends who may be willing to reconsider their views, were they to see a fuller picture.
One such resource is a book by Sandra Teplinsky, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, titled Why Care about Israel? Published in 2004 by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, the book is 288 pages. It is written with a great deal of feeling, which will of course be appreciated by those who feel as Teplinsky does, and perhaps not by those who don’t. The book is heavy on Scripture, particularly prophecy, and its tone is often pastoral. Some readers will find the tone helpful, while others (especially those of opposing views whom Teplinsky wishes most to persuade) might not.
Having said that, this book contains some crucial facts to challenge the misconceptions of those disposed to be unsympathetic toward Israel. Especially helpful is Part 6: Unraveling the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. This section is comprised of three chapters and provides much of the context of the Middle East conflict, which is typically missing from the media’s images and sound bytes. The chapters are easy to follow and carefully footnoted. If you have a Christian friend who tends not to support Israel but is willing to explore the backdrop to the Middle East conflict, you might bookmark that section and ask that he or she consider just those three chapters.
If you want to witness to Arab friends, and need help following Tass Abu Sadr’s suggestion to emphasize the biblical blessings for Ishmael, consider Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Prophetic Plan for Ishmael’s Line, by Tony Maalouf. Published by Kregel Publications in 2003, the 367-page book includes 110 pages of endnotes and another 30 pages of bibliography.
Honestly, I found myself reacting a bit defensively to portions of Eugene Merrill’s forward, (in which he claims that the book is dispassionate and says, “One can only hope that this effort might be met by one from the pen of a Jewish believer.”) While Maalouf does an admirable job, I don’t think that he would claim for himself the total lack of bias the forward seems to imply.
Having said that, Maalouf’s book made me aware of my own insensitivity and bias. For example, Maalouf writes of his dismay in hearing a Christian radio program in which the speaker said something I’ve often heard and accepted without question. The remark concerned Sarah’s impatience in giving Hagar to Abraham. The upshot was that had Sarah waited according to plan, Ishmael would never have been born, and the conflict in the Middle East could have been averted. Until reading this from Maalouf’s perspective I had never considered that such remarks wrongly reduce Ishmael and his descendants to an unnecessary and tragic mistake. That realization alone made me glad I’d picked up the book. Maalouf makes it clear that God’s kindness to Hagar and His promises concerning Ishmael are biblical matters of fact that we ought not to overlook.
Maalouf follows the descendants of Ishmael through various times and places, from the biblical context and beyond. For example, he gives evidence to support the Arabian origins of the three Magi who came to worship Jesus. He uses this to show how the descendants of Ishmael as well as Isaac were blessed by heavenly revelation concerning the Messiah’s birth, in fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 60. You might not agree with everything Maalouf presents, but he does a wonderful job of portraying the dignity of the Arab people and the fact that God has promised them a beautiful destiny not incompatible with that of Israel.
These books are available through Amazon.com, both new and used.
The above is not meant to constitute a full review of these books, but to offer a personal viewpoint on their use as possible resources.