Beacons of Hope: Palm Sunday

Psalm 122: 6-9

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity.

As we enter Holy Week, this psalm invites us into prayerful wordplay. The Hebrew word translated as “peace” in the first line and “prosperity” in the final line is the familiar shalom, which means “complete” or “whole,” or “flourishing.” The verb here translated as “be secure” also means “rest tranquil,” from the Hebrew yishlayu—an alliteration of yerushalem, translated Jerusalem.

As we enter Holy Week, let us pray for the peace of the City of Peace. Literally.

Today, if Jesus were to walk down from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, as he did on Palm Sunday, he would pass from the occupied West Bank through a checkpoint into Israel. Jerusalem is divided into East and West Jerusalem, the former occupied by the latter. The Mount of Olives, from which Jesus entered Jerusalem, spans an area directly East of Jerusalem, bordering on the city. The only way to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives around a checkpoint is over a concrete barrier, as tall as eight meters in some places.

The two disciples Jesus sent to untie a colt in Bethany would also need to pass directly through a checkpoint to get to the current Old City. Passing back and forth through a checkpoint can be as simple as an airport security line. Or, it can be as unpredictable, complicated, and frustrating as an airport security line, taking several hours to pass. Checkpoints exist to monitor who enters the state of Israel to control Palestinian violence against Israelis.* Many Palestinians have permits to work in Israel or visit holy sites. Yet many more struggle to attain permits and visit friends or family.**

Even 2000 years ago, when Jesus saw Jerusalem, he wept over it. According to Luke’s gospel, he said to Jerusalem, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). He then prophesied the destruction of the Temple, which happened not long after his death in 70 AD. The city’s history of violence and conquering has since continued. Jerusalem has known little peace.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians have long prayed for Jerusalem’s peace. Psalm 122 is a prayer Jews and Christians share for Jerusalem. For Muslims, Jerusalem is generally considered the third holiest city. The Prophet Muhammed and his followers faced Jerusalem to pray until they received a revelation changing the direction of prayer (qibla) to the Kaaba in Mecca. It is also home to the Dome of the Rock, from which Muslims believe the Prophet ascended to heaven and received the command to pray five times daily, the second pillar of Islam.

Christians today also pray for Jerusalem’s peace. CMEP is proud to partner with “Christ at the Checkpoint,” a biannual conference in Bethlehem, just a few miles south of Jerusalem, that encourages the church in Palestine and calls on evangelicals, in particular, to consider injustices in the West Bank and seek justice and peace in the Holy Lands. The next conference is June 10-14, 2021.

To better pray for Jerusalem, learn more about the religious significance of Jerusalem, and the Status Quo, which governs its access.

May we join Jesus in praying for the peace of Jerusalem even today. May we, too, be moved to weep over it, and to recognize “the things that make for peace.” May we join Jerusalem and all Jerusalemites—of the West and the East—in seeking peace. May we all look forward to the day in which all people can enter Jerusalem and receive the same honor and respect accorded to Jesus on Palm Sunday.

God of Peace, we pray for peace in Jerusalem. We pray for open access to holy sites for all who call them holy. We pray for the safety of Jerusalem from all attacks. Bless its residents: in the Christian, Armenian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters of the Old City; in East and West Jerusalem; its former and its future inhabitants. Bless Christ at the Checkpoint’s conference this summer: may it call many to account and be an effective voice for justice. Bless all of the CMEP community as we remember your joyful, triumphal entry into the City of Peace. Shaalu shilom Yerushalayim yishilayu ohavayikhi (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you be secure). With Jesus we pray, amen.

*Israel uses checkpoints to monitor who enters the state of Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and allegedly to restrict Palestinian violence against Israelis. Israeli checkpoints, however, which are operated by the Israeli military, are also throughout the West Bank and severely limit Palestinians’ basic mobility. Checkpoints are also sites of Israeli military harassment of and in some cases violence against Palestinians.

**Learn more about how to pray regarding the separation barrier/ wall and the difficulties checkpoints pose to many Palestinians here.

Kevin is a Ph.D. candidate in Religion and Society at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he also earned an M.Div. His research focuses on the relationship between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Palestinians with disabilities, and how the occupation produces disability. He is currently waiting to continue fieldwork in Bethlehem until it is safe to do so. In joining CMEP, he is excited to complement his research with advocacy work.

Kevin also earned a BA in philosophy from University of Chicago and has researched how churches can better care for and empower people with various disabilities. He has affiliations with the Evangelical Covenant Church, Vineyard USA, and United Methodist Church. In his spare time, you can find him running, biking, or playing the piano. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.