In August 1994, I was an introspective, brainy 16-year-old, fresh from a summer in Israel with a busload of other 16-year-olds. On my last morning in Jerusalem, I had watched the sun rise: cool breezes over ancient golden stones. I heard church bells ring and the Muslim call to prayer, whispering my own Hebrew dreams into fuzzy pink air. As a Jewish teen who went (reluctantly) to Israel for the Roman ruins but stayed for the prayers, when we chanted under desert stars I was suspended somewhere in between Reform Jewish teenagerhood and a future as a religious studies professor—plus my always evolving, complex relationship with Jewish adulthood. This was when I first encountered Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India.
Why is so much energy aimed at protesting Israel's occupation of the West Bank? Such actions are unlikely to move the levers of power.
The conflict over divestment seems to divide Presbyterians more deeply than past struggles. Old friends are barely speaking to one another.
Why are Presbyterians fixated on Israel? I frequently speak to church groups about pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I speak as a pilgrim, but the conversation often turns to politics. Inevitably someone will ask about our denomination’s position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There’s no simple answer.
A few years ago, while wandering through the Old City of Jerusalem, I stumbled upon a spray-painted sign on the side of a small factory building. It called out in English: “We need peace.” It seemed to me like a modern-day cry of “hosanna” coming from the people of Jerusalem.
The Six-Day War, as Caitlin Carenen argues, represented a turning point in American Protestant views of Israel.
There's a broad consensus that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians depends on a two-state solution. So why doesn't it happen?
Is the goal of Zionism a democratic Israel with a Jewish majority? Or rule of the entire land, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan?
In Jordan, reports are mixed as to just how good relations are between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority. What's clearer is that the stronger divide is between native Jordanians and the many Palestinian refugees. The two locals we spent the most time with, our tour guide and our bus driver, represent both differences.