Countless times over the past two decades, when this magazine had an especially important theological book to review or topic to explore, we contacted William C. Placher, one of our editors at large. And since he could not write all the articles we suggested, we would often have to move to the next thought: Who can write almost as well as Bill?
In early December the security situation had improved enough in Bethlehem for busloads of tourists to come back to visit the birthplace of Jesus and other holy sights in Israel and the West Bank. That was about the only the good news from the Middle East. In the Gaza Strip, the standoff continued between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.
The election of Barack Obama offers hope that religion will play a more constructive role in the public arena rather than the largely divisive role it has played in recent years. One sign of hope is that Obama was able to narrow the Democrats’ so-called God gap.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).