Easter and Passover are busy times for us in the Holy Land, as they are in most parts of the Church and Jewish communities around the world. This Passover and Easter fell on the same week – but Shireen (Women’s Projects Manager for Palestine) and myself (Hedva, Projects Manager) didn’t spend our time making traditional Easter cookies or looking for the Hametz (the leaven) in our homes this year. Instead, we were asked to attend several conferences and meetings in the United Kingdom.

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Things They Did Not See At Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday this year, my wife and I went for a meeting, and we found ourselves near the New Gate of Jerusalem. We watched as the estimated 15,000 people made their way into the Old City from the Mount of Olives. The procession was ripe with cheers, the waving of palm branches, and the scout troop band. The atmosphere was lively and joyous. In a way, it reminded me of the joy of the people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem that we read about in the gospels. People at the time of Jesus, like the people at this Palm Sunday procession, had in the forefront of their minds the realities of their daily life. I’m sure many of them were looking and hoping for relief, salvation from the different afflictions and forms of oppression they were experiencing.

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Resilience in Time of Escalating Violence

As the time drew near for the public affairs leaders’ seminar, which took place this past weekend in Athens, we at Musalaha began to worry about the mounting tensions in the land. Nonetheless, we continued planning for the weekend meeting. Almost every other day we could hear shooting and saw news of killings. We felt concerned because in the past when things got tense and violence escalated, people withdrew and didn’t want to participate until things quieted down. The participants of our groups face pressure from family and friends not to come meet together with “the other.” The tension and violence in our country continued to escalate to a high level. However, to our joy and encouragement, the members of the group were determined to come and meet with each other, to share and listen to one another.

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Frustrated Generation

They were bright, educated, savvy, and well-read. Anyone would wish they were his children, students, or upcoming leaders in his community. However, as we sat together talking, I could sense how frustrated and paralyzed they were on what they could do to bring the necessary change for reconciliation to their communities. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many groups of young upcoming leaders, mostly of the millennial generation, in our community that I’m conversing with about leadership and vision in our society.

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Overcoming Fear of the Other

February 15, 2019

I was recently asked to engage with a group of high school principals on the subject of the ultimate other. These principals included Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli men and women who were Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. This group plays a critical role in our society because we entrust them in large degree to educating our children during their formative years. Educators play an important part in influencing the next generation in creating an understanding of the other and in teaching about tolerance.

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In the Desert You Can Remember Your Name

Under a black velvet Jordanian sky choked with stars, 22 people sat together, each one thinking of two nice things to say about the person in the circle whose name they had plucked out of a disposable paper cup.

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Giving Purposefully, Overcoming Joyfully

This is the season in which we give gifts to our family and friends! We love to show our generosity and express kindness to others. In our culture, giving gifts is something we do all the time. Recently, following the renovation of our home, some friends wanted to come over. They were Palestinian and they told us that they would only come to visit on condition that they could bring us housewarming gifts. The desire and obligation to give is part of our culture.

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Young Adult Poetry Slam, the Impact of Storytelling

We arrived early Friday morning to join the group of the 14 Israeli and Palestinian young adults for a time to reunite for a Poetry slam. This was a group who had participated in an exchange program with British young adults at the end of the summer.

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A Prophetic Vision for Reconciliation amidst new Nation-State Law

Much has been written on the impact of the Jewish Nation-State law, passed by the Knesset only a few weeks ago. By defining the state of Israel as the “national home” of the Jewish people, the law declares that the right of self-determination within the State of Israel is exclusive to Jews only. Most popular criticism of the law has correctly stated that it compromises peace, democracy and equal rights for all Israeli citizens, and it has demoralized the non-Jewish segment of Israeli society. In particular, it has diminished legitimacy of the Palestinian people. The aim of this article, however, is to address how this law affects Christians in The Land alongside those of us working in reconciliation.

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Summer Camp: Little Feet Finding Higher Roads

During a blazing hot week beneath the Middle Eastern sun, we took a group of 75 kids on a journey “back to Egypt.” This was the theme for the first of our two summer camps that took place in Bethlehem and included Muslim and Christian children from the city and its surrounding villages.

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Inspiring Hope for the Future

Last weekend, 45 women – Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jewish, Arabic and Hebrew speaking – gathered together in Nazareth to share stories, listen to one another, and to dream. These are women of different nations, races, and languages all united in their love for Jesus Christ and their burning desire for peace. The simple act of these women from the different sides gathering together in unity and love, is a tangible picture of peace.

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Swords in our Garden: Yom haZikaron Alternative Memorial Review

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord (Isaiah 2:4-5, NIV).”

Too often, prophetic strategies are tamed into romantic ideals, effectively absolving us of responsibility. Too often, rather than implementing Isaiah 2 into our surrounding reality, we reduce it to comforting platitudes, or—ironically—weaponise it in reference to those we deem uncooperative.

This was not so the night of April 17th, where over 7,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for a joint memorial ceremony and inclusive alternative to the national holiday Yom haZikaron. It was the 13th annual event of its nature, inviting bereaved Palestinians and Israelis to commemorate their losses side by side.

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Applying Musalaha’s Model in the UK

A friend of mine, Rev. Phil Rawlings recently sent me his thesis, Beyond Dialogue – An Exploration of the Musalaha: Curriculum of Reconciliation model of interfaith dialogue with relevance for the UK context. Phil is the Director of the Manchester Centre for the Study of Christianity and Islam at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, UK. He will be receiving his doctorate this fall for this work.

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Lines to Cross: Youth, Identity, and Reconciliation

A patchwork of mismatched, ambitious youth step off the bus into an enclosed garden in Ness Ammim, Israel. We have twenty-seven hours to cross a line that no one names, but everyone can immediately feel.

It is a time and space just for 33 Israeli and Palestinian young people. It is not a group of people meeting for the first time, but instead, teenagers who have known each other from childhood through their participation in Musalaha’s Children’s Summer Camps. Musalaha’s reconciliation training on identity is not for the faint of heart. It is challenging, emotional, and comprehensive.

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Following the Star: Discerning God’s Will in the midst of Political Turmoil

Last Sunday our preacher reflected on passages from Matthew 2, which tells the story of the Magi from the east. It is interesting that this record appears in the Gospel of Matthew since scholars see this book written for a Jewish audience.

Matthew 2:1-12 deliberately presents us with a specific narrative about wise men who were learned scholars and searching for a sign. Their study confirmed this sign was a star, telling them that the “King of the Jews (Matt 2:2)” was born.

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Building Bridges Even When it is Hard: School Principals Respond to Trump’s Declaration

Two months ago, Musalaha was asked to conduct a reconciliation seminar for Palestinian and Israeli school principals in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is undoubtedly a center for tension between these two communities and young people are increasingly taking part in the conflict, initiatives to build bridges, first between them and later among their students, have potential for great impact. This group of principals came to a deadlock in their ability to progress, so we were asked to come and present our model to help them move forward. To our great delight, the group was very excited to learn about our model and the six stages of reconciliation.

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Moral implications of political decisions

November 2nd marked 100 years since the public announcement of the Balfour Declaration, which stated the British government’s support for a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. To this day there is quite a bit of controversy as to why Britain or Lord Balfour made this declaration. Religious motives? Colonial or empirical considerations or even a means to draw the US into the war? Whatever the reason, it can’t be denied that its effect has consequences to this day. While Israelis celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian remember it as a day of broken promises and betrayal.

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