Reitsma, Bernhard J.G. The God of My Enemy: The Middle East and the Nature of God. Translated by Henry Jansen. Oxford, UK: Regnum Books International, 2014. 206 pp. ISBN 978-1-908355-50-8. Price: $ 41.69 paperback.
Reitsma’s book, “The God of My Enemy: The Middle East and the Nature of God” deals with The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the effect of this on the Arab Christians’ view of the Old Testament in Palestine and the Middle East in general. The author wants to convince the reader, especially the Arab Christians, that the God of Israel may be your God as well. He offers some attempts to understand God as the God of Israel till now as the same in the old testament.
I see the author in his introduction acknowledge that the establishment of the State of Israel is a relief idea for the conscience of the West from the memories of the Holocaust, but at the same time, it is a major crisis for the Christians of the Middle East. The author emphasizes the Judaism of Jesus in chapters two and three. And he sees if Israel today see in the Messiah who is closest to their Judaism and at the same time is the God of their enemies. And for the Palestinians, he is their God, this will help bring peace in the Middle East. I suspect that presenting Christ in this way would be impossible for any Arab Muslim to accept Jesus at all. This solution is far-fetched and impossible to achieve on the ground. If we want to present Jesus to the Middle East, we must present him as the Messiah and Savior for all nations, and he has no nationalistic inclination for his Judaism, which he grew up. In chapter four, the author deals with the New Testament denial of the Mosaic laws, because Christ is the goal of the law. He tries to confirm that the covenant is still for the Jews, and this does not mean that Christ breaks his covenant with them. I see this is a controversial point if the covenant with God is with the Church and Israel implies with it in the New Testament. The author in chapter five explains that God is the god of current Israel. His main claim was built on his explanation to Romans 9-11 which will fall without it. I think it’s difficult to make a big claim about the state of Israel by the reflection of one scripture exegesis. In chapter six, the author sees that the foundation of the state of Israel today is the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Jews (that what I understood, I’m still confused because the author in other parts seems not).
I see that Reitsma gave us a good book on an important controversial topic about the state of Israel. My struggle with the book is in defining who are the Jews of the Old Testament? Are the Jews of the Old Testament are the Israelites now or the Jews who live now? for me, chapter six wasn’t enough to convince me. I see the book succeeded in presenting a large picture to justify the establishment of the state of Israel, but on the other hand, he lost the Arab Christian reader who also has theological and biblical interpretations that do not support the establishment of the state of Israel from his point of view. From the first paragraph in the foreword by Colin Chapman and before reading the book I could see that it is trying to justify the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It mentions that the Jews escaped from antisemitism in Europe to Palestine “alongside the Jewish communities that had been there since biblical times.” (p. xi) If there are indigenous Jews in Palestine, this gives legitimacy to the occupation of Palestine in 1948 and the claim of the Jews as their homeland. We could trace this idea from the introduction by Reitsma and the whole book That “Israel was a dream come true: after 2000 years the Jews were living in their own country again” (p. 10). This unfair claim reflecting a long history of Palestine and how the Jews disappeared from it after it was their country. Therefore, the author is biased and one-sided to justify the current state of Israel, the evidence for this is that he did not present any theological and biblical views that do not support the idea of present Israel is the Israel of the Old Testament, such as the opinion that the Israel of the New Testament is the Church now. I think I can only recommend this book to scholars. But I can’t recommend it for any Arab readers even the Christians because it’s difficult to be accepted in the middle eastern context, and you will be faced with charges of naturalizing with Israel and treason.