Guest blog by our friends at Churches for Middle East Peace, originally published here.
Bethlehem, considered the cradle of Christianity, is perhaps one of Earth’s most special places to embrace the Christmas spirit. Located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it’s the “little town” where Jesus was born, and it attracts thousands of pilgrims at Christmas.
Christians have flocked to Bethlehem for centuries to celebrate the Christmas season, and each year the city hosts approximately one million tourists.
A Sacred City for Three Religions
Bethlehem is the site of the Church of the Nativity, an underground cave where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus. A 14-pointed silver star beneath an altar that the emperor Constantine the Great and his mother Helena had built around the year 338 marks the spot, and the stone church is a key pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims alike.
Continue reading Occupation and Covid: A Strange Christmas in Bethlehem
We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.
This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.
What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.
1. Breaking the cycle of hostility
The first tool is given to us by Paul right after he says that we should seek to live at peace with everyone. He continues: Continue reading Three Biblical Methods for Handling Conflict
by Heather Goodman, originally posted on her blog.
As a Jew, I love Israel. There’s no way around that. In fourth grade I remember being assigned to write a report on any country in the world, and it was a complete no-brainer as to which country my report would be about. With great pride I decorated the blue-and-white report cover with the Israeli flag. Although seemingly irrelevant, I sprinkled some family recipes for things like matzo ball soup into the report, although now I see that the ethnic pride in recipes and that nationalistic pride in my peoples’ country really are not that far apart.
Years later, I’d get to take my first trip to Israel, and tour dozens of ancient Biblical archaeological sites. And where our Israeli tour guide could not take our group, but instead handed us off to a Palestinian tour guide, we also got to tour the ancient sites of the West Bank. As I came to realize how many places in my peoples’ history and my Bible were not under Jewish ownership but instead Palestinian, I started to realize that this did not sit well with my fantasies of what the “Jewish homeland” should be. My inner child wanted a complete restoration of what once was – I was living a fantasy of having walked back through the pages of the Bible, into the land of my Fathers and Mothers and into the “Kingdom of Israel” — with King David or Solomon, take your pick, ruling from Jerusalem, the Shekinah glory of God sitting on the Temple Mount in the Jewish temple, and every ancient parcel of land firmly a land for me, for us, the Jews. Continue reading Waking Up from My Fantasy About Israel