This past Monday evening I was visiting my mother before a speaking engagement in Tel Aviv when a siren went off indicating an incoming rocket from Gaza. I immediately called the coordinator arranging this meeting to ask her if she wanted to cancel. She said no, and asked that I please attend. This was a group of French-Jewish professionals who came to visit the country as part of an educational trip. During much of their trip they only heard the Israeli side, and this lecture was to expose them to minority experiences in the state of Israel. After my lecture, they asked many questions, and it was evident in the way they talked that they wanted to keep the moral high ground. This desire to maintain the moral high ground has been very evident among both Israelis and Palestinians.
As we are approaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup this year, each game is the make or break for the remaining teams. They don’t get second chances. One of the things I enjoy about the World Cup is that it brings people together. It is a good topic for conversation because everyone has an opinion about it. I have noticed there are different types of audiences for this World Cup; some are devoted fans who know everything about the teams and are over-passionate; there some that I call “observing spectators” enjoying the social aspect of watching the games; and then there are those in between.
The streets are emptier than usual on my drive between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. When I return home in the evenings I usually find the atmosphere in our flat full of excitement or great disappointment depending on whether my sons’ favorite teams have won or lost in this summer’s World Cup. Similar shouts of elation or frustration are heard from my neighbors’ windows.
I have recently started reading the book of Ezekiel, and as I have meditated on Ezekiel chapters 1 and 2, I am struck by God’s revelation of his glory and majesty preceding his prophetic call for Ezekiel. The language is evocative, descriptive, and beautiful. As God reveals himself, he calls Ezekiel to speak to the people of Israel who, during that time, were living in a state of rebellion.
I recently wrote the forward to a book, which was translated into Arabic, about the life of Joseph Ben-Eliezer. This is a story that I have been asked to share many times. It is a story about an act of forgiveness and reconciliation. In his book, Ben-Eliezer, a Jewish follower of Jesus shares about his suffering at the hands of the Nazis during the horrifying events of World War II, his journey to the land and fighting in the war of 1948. His unit served in Lydda, where many atrocities were committed against the people of this town. Years later, Ben-Eliezer returned to the land to seek forgiveness from my father, Yacoub Munayer, a Palestinian from Lydda. These two men are no longer living with us today, but they are examples and role models for all of us. Their stories are not easy to tell because it speaks of the painful histories of our peoples in this land. Yet, at the same time their stories give a vision for the future, and hope and encouragement to those of us working in reconciliation.
We are excited to announce that after much labor, thought, prayer, writing, discussion and revision, the much anticipated Through My Enemy’s Eyes Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine has just been released by Paternoster Press. Musalaha Director and Palestinian Christian Salim J. Munayer together with Musalaha Board Member and Israeli Messianic Jew Lisa Loden, tackle many of the issues and debates that split their two communities. This book addresses the universal theological dimension of reconciliation in the context of the Israeli Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian divide. The struggle for reconciliation is painful and often extremely difficult for all of us. Yet, this unique work seeks to show the way forward.
The Great Lakes Initiative Leadership Institute in partnership with Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation invited me to Kampala, Uganda, to share what we at Musalaha have learned about reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian context. More than 150 African leaders from countries surrounding Lake Victoria attended this conference and for some of them it was the first time meeting a Palestinian Christian. An interesting aspect of this was their perception of all Arabs as being Muslim. It was also intriguing for me to understand how these African leaders are grappling with the issues of land and how they found several articles in the book The Land Cries Out relevant to their contexts. Other than being encouraged by how relevant our Curriculum of Reconciliation was to their local situations, I was also challenged by what they shared.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
It is impossible to avoid the shocking, blatant and daily murder and massacre of men, women and children in Syria as it flashes on our television and computer screens. I see these images and ask myself, how can these things happen in 2013 after what occurred during World War II, and more recently the genocide in Rwanda? Why aren’t world powers taking necessary steps to stop this injustice?
We have just finished the busy month of July with two very blessed summer camps for young children. Our first camp was held July 8-12 in Zebabdeh, a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank. This camp was run by our Palestinian women leaders and youth leaders. Our team held activities and Bible studies for the children in the mornings and afternoons, and also had a special ministry for the mothers of this village during the camp. This special ministry sparked much interest in reconciliation and there is hope of forming a new women’s group in the Zebabdeh area. This camp not only impacted the lives of the children who attended, but also provided a forum for Christian unity among the different leaders of churches in the area who came to take part in the opening day of the camp. We thank you very much for praying for us to be a blessing not only to these children, but also to an entire community.