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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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Sukkot & Reconciliation

From the beginning of Rosh HaShana until the last day of Sukkot, all you hear in Israel is “Acharei HaHagim” (After the Holidays). Whenever we try to move forward at work or get something done in the banks, we’re told “Acharei haHagim.” The same tends to be true when it comes to the difficult work of reconciliation; but how much longer can we afford to put it off? There is too much at stake to continue avoiding these issues. Today it is the last day of Sukkot – It’s Acharei haHagim. Let’s get to work.

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Building Bridges Across Palestinian Communities

By making cross-community encounters possible, Musalaha strives to provide a safe space for Christians and Muslims to get to know each other and talk about the issues that divide us. We find that these divisions are often based on misunderstandings and false perceptions. By reaching out to their own people with a testimony of their personal experience, our young leaders become key figures in spreading the positive message of community building and peacemaking.

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The Faithful

Working for reconciliation is extremely challenging. In general there are not thousands of Palestinians and Israelis rushing to participate or engage with the other side. But there will always be a few who are willing to take on the challenge seriously and engage with the other side. The faithful few shine a small but vital light in the midst of hopelessness and despair, a light that shines on a new path of peace, reconciliation and hope.

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Learning to Love Their Neighbors

In times like this, it takes a conscious effort not to give in to frustration and depression even for adamant peace optimists. I took comfort in my daughter’s shared experiences and allowed my heart to fill with hope as camps like this allow Israeli and Palestinian children from different backgrounds to connect and see their neighbor in a new light, or even for the first time at all. Let us be encouraged and continue to invest in a new generation of peacemakers.

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Lessons from Northern Ireland

Two years ago a group of Musalaha’s Young Adults travelled to Ireland for a reconciliation encounter and to learn from from the conflict in Ireland. During their trip, Board Member Lisa Loden, who was leading the trip, and a few others were invited one evening to join the Bangor Missionary Convention taking place at the same time.

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Musalaha Camp Draws Parents

Musalaha camps are open to all children, from any ethnic and religious background. As we have increased the number of camps that we host we have received a greater diversity in the demographic makeup of both the campers and the leaders. This has been an exciting development and we are grateful for this opportunity to bring a wider range of children together to meet one another. Musalaha’s camps are also becoming known in new cities and villages, with various groups and organizations inviting us to their communities. Due to this demand, this year we decided to host two weeks of camp in Bethlehem instead of one.

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Budding from Brokenness

Yes, there are catastrophic traumas that can kill a person. However, there is always hope. There is always a possibility for growth. We will not forget our traumas, but there can be a beauty that comes after an intense pain– and together, as a community, we help each other grow and heal.

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Discovery in the Desert

The group participants felt that we had become like a family and not just a group. We created a WhatsApp texting group, and we have been chatting almost daily, updating each other about our lives. We have planned to meet for coffee and kanafeh, an Arabic dessert. I can say that this trip achieved its goal in that we have succeeded in forming a strong group. I look forward to all the things we can do together in Palestinian society, and the ways that we can influence our family and friends to get to know their Muslim or Christian neighbors more. What we discovered in the desert will not stay there, but will spread through us to our communities.

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Discovery in the Desert

Two leaders from the group had known each other in the past and there was an unresolved problem between them. It was a coincidence that they met again in this group. In the initial stages of the trip they were avoiding each other. However, during an icebreaking activity one of them picked his old friend’s name. He asked his friend to forgive him and he apologized. We were all amazed to see this! Then they hugged each other in front of the whole group. After four days together, they really strengthened their relationship.

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How Good and Pleasant

This is the essence of Musalaha for me. Humans enjoying each other’s company that would never have met under normal Israeli circumstances. To pursue those friendships and build bridges across our cultural and political differences I’ll gladly step out of my comfort zone. Again and again.

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God Speaks in the Desert – Does the World Hear?

I asked the ladies, “Who are we?” Several answers came quickly: “Children of God,” “Servants,” “We are a witness of God’s love when we love each other”….Ah, now here’s a key. WHEN we LOVE EACH OTHER we are a witness of God’s love and His desire to reconcile the world to Him. God has called us as witnesses to be connected. So I asked another question, “This is important to know here in this place, but what happens when you go back to your community and you’re pulled into your national corners by others? What do we do then?” Several women said they tell their neighbors and friends, “I am uncomfortable with your pressure and feel that you are wrong. We are the same, we are family.” Another answered “I am commanded by God to love everyone. No exceptions.”

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What Lies Between Here and Reconciliation: “The Situation”

Around and within the people of Jerusalem and Bethlehem today, there exist obstacles: physical, emotional and psychological, ideological and theological, simple and complex. The women in Musalaha’s multi-ethnic/religious Zayt group, now running for over a year, can rattle off more than a handful of these obstacles without giving it much thought. Some overlap between Palestinians and Israelis and some are distinct for each group. When the group met in March to discuss these obstacles the women were able to share with a higher level of listening and openness than in previous meetings. It was one of those times where everyone present showed up in an authentic way, were willing to share painful experience and listen to experiences from the other side that challenge their identity.

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From the Ground Up

With these things in mind, how should the people of faith respond? For the believer in Jesus, it is necessary to look at his teachings on peace. The challenges he confronted are similar and sometimes even worse than our own, yet he presented a catalytic way of dealing with violence, hatred, and enmity. It is catalytic because it does not encourage retaliation or complacency. The way of the cross of Christ is the way of patient, faithful, self-sacrificing obedience. We remember the words of Jesus as he turns the way of the world on its head: “I tell you: Love your neighbors and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

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Patient Hope for Reconciliation

When visiting Canterbury Cathedral in sixth grade during a school trip, I could never have imagined that one day I’d find myself in the West Bank, in a room full of local women sharing about reconciliation with the Archbishop’s wife. However, life throws funny surprises at you sometimes, especially in this part of the world, so this is exactly what happened in early May when I was asked to join a diverse group of Musalaha women from Israel and Palestine for an important meeting.

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Hope in the Midst of Hostilities: Musalaha Curriculum Spreads to the Wider Arab World

For Good Friday, our family attended the service at the Church of the Resurrection as it is called in Arabic, or as it is known in English, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem. This was an amazing experience where we met people from all around the world with different traditions, including Greek Orthodox, Copts, Syriacs, Ethiopians, and Roman Catholics, each praying in their indigenous language. Though it was a bit chaotic with the thousands there that day, each with their strict procedures for prayer and procession, it was a beautiful mosaic reflecting the diversity of the Christian community.

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Jeremiah and the King

This weekend Jewish people around the world will commemorate the Exodus from Egypt as they gather together for Passover, while Christians will celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In both of these narratives, the political leaders (Pharoah and Pontius Pilate), were instrumental in these significant historical events.

Today, our media is obsessed with reporting about our political leaders because many believe these leaders will greatly influence our history.

Many believers often claim that our political leaders have a special destiny in our history because God appointed them. They will be quick to quote passages from Romans 13 about being “subject [submissive] to governing authorities” who are placed in their position by God. These same people then claim that because these verses tell us to submit to our leaders, we should do so without questioning their authority or actions.

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Engaging Israeli and Palestinian School Principals

We at Musalaha are always looking for new opportunities to share our learning with new segments of society. In recent months, I have received new requests to share about Musalaha’s work of leading Israelis and Palestinians on the journey of reconciliation. One of these invitations was to teach in a unique training program involving Israeli school principals from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds, coordinated by the Shalom Hartman Institute.

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Jeremiah’s Warning of False Prophets

In the last few years, with the increase in political turmoil, there has been a rise in the number of people who profess to be prophets and claim that they predicted political events. Many times their prophecies do not reflect God’s attitude of how to treat the weak, marginalized or our enemy. As a result, we are often asked by people about various prophecies and what is our position.

In this short reflection, I do not want to enter into a debate or discussion on various prophecies, but draw your attention to Biblical passages related to true and false prophets.

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Light in the Darkness

On a rainy afternoon in Jerusalem, fifty-seven women arrive at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, seeking reconciliation against the odds. Despite common faith in Jesus, the group is far from ordinary—composed of Palestinian Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinian women living in the Palestinian Authority.

Recent political activity tried to exacerbate the distance between these communities; so everyone who walks through the door is performing an act of courage, vulnerability, and gentle defiance against stereotypes. Still, each person carries a unique set of expectations or doubts.

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