Friday February 13th marked the rebooting of our monthly curriculum lectures. This series of lectures is not only meant to provide a platform to discuss topics related to reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a joint setting, but also to deal with a problem our young adults face. Many young adults have expressed that they have many questions that are going unanswered in the current theological framework that exists in their communities. The lack of dialogue and space to discuss these questions has caused incredible frustration, yet some young adults have taken a positive approach and stepped forward to join initiatives such as our lectures, in order to fulfill this need.
Working for reconciliation is challenging. I have heard it said that whenever you try and create a bridge between two differing sides, you experience opposition. In our efforts to bridge the gap between people, we have not only found people who oppose us, but those who prevent others from accessing the bridge altogether.
This week began as scholars, practitioners, and researchers gathered together at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for a two-day conference on Palestinian Christian Identity in Israel: New Trends of Research.
Do you know that all conflicts come to an end? Oppression cannot last forever. The desire to suppress will eat away at our souls, the willful ignorance of what happens around us will corrupt the future of our children, and the will to hope can be snuffed out if we choose to give up. And giving up is easy.
When Jesus was born, Augustus was the founder and ruler of the Roman Empire. He was a privileged elite who rose to power as a result of his connections and military and diplomatic successes. Under Augustus, the Roman Empire expanded greatly. He spread Roman ideas and culture throughout the Empire, and built many beautiful things. At the same time, he kept the peace by the sword and power for the elite through a high taxation system. Like most leaders, Augustus Caesar was interested in maintaining and expanding his own power and privileges, as well as those of his close supporters. In order to unite his empire with its diversity, he exalted himself as the “son of god” and started the imperial cult.
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
During the past few weeks we have witnessed further escalation, particularly in Jerusalem. News sites are cautiously saying we might be in a third intifada, giving a name to intermittent but increasing unrest, demonstrations, arrests, house demolitions, attacks and killings. The Temple Mount and the status-quo of religious sites in Jerusalem are discussed more frequently, and religious rhetoric fans the flames of nationalist sentiments.
On October 10, a group of young adults met in order to discuss the events of the past summer, and how they impacted each community. We began with a short presentation from Messianic Jewish, Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian young adults outlining how the summer impacted them on a personal level, in their respective communities, and in their leaders’ response to the conflict.
As a staff, we have been reflecting on the current war in Gaza and the reactions of those in our communities, some who have been involved in reconciliation and some who have not. The last cycle of violence has affected our societies; some feel betrayed, some are depressed, and others feel their principles have been compromised. Some are expressing themselves with bitterness and hate for the other side. Both Israelis and Palestinians feel they have lost their joy and are questioning the future. When you listen to people you hear cynicism, distrust, and hopelessness and you see the increasing polarization of our two communities.
This past August 9-19, Musalaha in cooperation with the Palestinian Bible Society, the Free Church of Norway, the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel, the Caspari Center, BIG Grimstad Bible College, and Return 2 Sender, brought together a group of 10 Israelis, 10 Palestinians, and 10 Norwegians in the east side of Norway.