Sunday, November 06, 2005

Journal from Jerusalem

For just over a week now I have been in Israel and Jordan, and am about to head to Egypt. Like various of my previous trips there have been the usual hassles and pleasant surprises. This trip has been different from my usual tours in that I a filming a Christmas special, The Mystery of Christmas for CBS, which involves filming in Jerusalem, Bethelehem, Capernaum, Nazareth, Petra and Egypt. We are dealing with both the Lukan and Matthean birth narratives, various scholarly views represented. The crew I am working with consists of Jews, Moslems and Christians and the team camraderie has been excellent.

It has been sad once again to hear about the plight of Palestinian Christians caught in the big squeeze between Jews and Moslems trying to marginalize them. Especially painful has been seeing the new huge concrete barriers around Bethlelem and elsewhere boxing in the Palestinians. As Robert Frost says--- something there is that doesn't love a wall. There have been some small rounds of terrorism by both Jews and Moslems while I have been here. It is a sad state of affairs, though all in all we are better off than in the days of Arafat and Netanyahu.

One of the things that most surprises and depresses me is the distorted way the news is reported in the U.S. Palestinian Christians and their plight are hardly ever mentioned. There is plenty enough blame to go around but today when I went to the St. George Cathedral in Jerusalem there was much prayer and attempt to heal the wounds. One person I especially enjoyed working with was Issa, a Palestinian Christian born in Bethlehem, who still lives under an old Jordanian passport (remembering that everything east of Jerusalem was Jordan until 1967). He was born in Bethlehem and has lived here all his life. Yet he is treated as if he were a foreigner or resident alien in his own home land. It is of course wrong, especially since this has been his family's home for many generations. But equally wrong is the terrorism sponsored by Hamas or Al Quaeda. As a Christian I can condone neither kind of ostracizing or violence.

I would urge you all to read more widely about the situation in Israel, and not take American news channels at their word. There is much propaganda and nonsense. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for some day we will all be accountable for what we did or failed to do when it comes to our fellow Christians in this land. They are for sure--- 'the least of these my brethren' when it comes to the worldwide Christian community.


Michael F. Bird said...

Sounds like it will be an interesting documentary. Your comments on the Palestinians and their homeland are right on. I've enjoyed preparing lectures on Judaism including one on "Israel and the Land", I will be interested to see how it is received. A guy called Colin Chapman has a good essay on the topic in a book called "The God of Covenant" edited by Jamie Grant and Alistair Wilson.

Unknown said...


Thanks for this write-up. I totally agree with your thoughts on American media and the Palestinian plight. I was there for a semester at JUC and had the opportunity to befriend Palestinians and Israelis alike. And the Palestinians are indeed a mixed group - Christians, Muslims, moderates, etc. We visited with some Palestinians in Beit Jala one morning who had fled their home the night before because Palestinian gunmen took over the town and "pecked a fight" with the Israelis across the wadi. The Israelis of course fired back and caused damage to the homes of innocent Palestinians. We were with them in the morning as they picked up the broken glass and assessed the damage. Neither side is perfect, and Jesus is the Prince of Peace that offers true peace between those two people groups. Sticky, but not impossible. Thanks again for all you teach and stand for, Ben.

Jesse Joyner

Ben Witherington said...

You are most welcome Jesse... and great to hear from you,