Jesus Was No Stranger to Death and Sorrow
Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
“When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography
Jesus was no stranger to death and sorrow. Jesus lost loved ones during his time on earth. He knows that the death of someone we love creates a hole in the heart, which is seemingly impossible to fill. Pain and suffering are evident in our day-to-day lives, and in our world. Many Israelis and Palestinians have lost loved ones due to the conflict. There is great trauma and grief experienced on all sides, in deep and diverse ways. Many Israelis carry the trauma and history of Holocaust in their collective memory. They fear growing global anti-Semitism, as well as acts of violence and terror in more recent years. Many Palestinians have experienced the loss of family homes and land, and are continually struggling for self-determination. They fear the violence of a militarized society and the realities of living under occupation. All of the communities in the region have experienced loss, pain, and suffering. Read more
Jesus Was No Stranger to a Life of Poverty
Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:20-21
Born in a cave to poor parents in the shepherding community of Bethlehem, Jesus was no stranger to a life of poverty. As an infant, his family fled to Egypt as refugees, trying to escape a genocide of the maniacal ruler, King Herod. Throughout his adult ministry, he had no home of his own. In a conversation with a would be follower, Jesus made his humble lifestyle clear: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). All his life, Jesus was reliant upon God to provide.
With Jesus’ background, how would he encounter people living in Gaza today? If Jesus walked through the streets, it would be apparent much of the territory still lies in rubble from the 2014 war. Controlled borders limit access to supplies desperately needed to rebuild. Many families are still displaced, living in crowded shelters like refugees in their own cities. Simple necessities like electricity and water are limited and largely unavailable. Feelings of isolation, sadness, and abandonment are abundant in the hearts of these impoverished people.
Little girl in Gaza
Children have few safe places to go and end up playing in the streets. I imagine Jesus pausing in his walk, sitting down in the dirt, and playing a game with these kids (Matt. 19:14). Perhaps the family of one of the children would invite him into their home for tea, as an expression of hospitality deeply rooted in their culture. As Jesus enters their humble home, he might see the extended family who lives there. He might sit next to a young, widowed mother, who has had to move in with her brother and his family. Read more
Jesus Was No Stranger To Obedience
Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
“Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark:12:29
Jesus was no stranger to obedience. The King of Kings came quietly at his Father’s request. He lived among his broken and desperate people. He loved them and served them, literally to his death… upon on a Roman cross. But through his resurrection, he left us with hope and faith to carry on in this troubled world. We know that evil will never have the final say. Ultimately, God’s goodness will conquer all.
Jesus desires obedience in the lives of his people. “If you love me you will obey my commands.” (John:14:15). And his commands can be summed up in two straightforward steps: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark:12:29)
Though Jesus lived his life under occupation, he sought not to reclaim the promised land from the Romans, but to forgive and bring forth the Kingdom of God. He did this in humble obedience- an obedience which yields compassion, forgiveness and humility.
IDF Ceremony in front of the Western Wall. Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography
Today, I’d like to imagine what Jesus would say to a young, conscripted IDF soldier working at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem? Maybe she just turned 18 and would rather be in college with her friends. But, she knows that this is part of the service required of her by law. She wants to serve her country, but may feel conflicted about the role the army plays in oppressing the Palestinian people. To refuse might bring public embarrassment to her family, time in jail for herself, and a future of restricted employment opportunities as an ongoing punishment for refusing to obey. She feels stuck between a rock and a hard place. Read more
Jesus Was No Stranger
Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography
The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried and resurrected. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on places in today’s time where there is loss, poverty, and pain. Throughout his life, Jesus was closest to people who had succumbed to illnesses, were marginalized by society, and who were experiencing rejection and suffering. Throughout this Lenten season, we will be reprising our series, “Jesus Was No Stranger,” which seeks to look at some of those places in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. We will ask ourselves, “How would Jesus respond to some of the experiences of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians today?”
Over the coming weeks we will offer reflections and prayers on the themes of:
Jesus was no stranger to . . .
. . . . life under occupation
. . . . obedience
. . . . a life of poverty
. . . . death and sorrow
. . . . the cry for justice
. . . . waiting
. . . . being misunderstood
. . . . humble service
. . . . persecution and pain
. . . . persistent hope
We will wrap up the series with “Thy Kingdom Come” on Pentecost Sunday. Read more
By Molly Lorden
“Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.”
January 20, 2017 was an immense day of change for our country. For me, it carried additional significance, as it was also the day I returned from my first trip to the Holy Land. While experiencing the change of administration in our country, I am also processing a trip that changed my life. As I traveled in the land that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim holy, I had incredible opportunities. I visited various holy sites and learned more about the complexities of the conflict. My fellow seminarians and I also met with NGO’s and leaders committed to seeking peace. Read more
What happens when local role models lead unarmed movements and demonstrate to the world what is possible when grassroots leaders choose to act? This is the story that Just Vision seeks to share with audiences across the globe.
Through award-winning films, digital media, and public education campaigns, the team at Just Vision – led by internationally recognized filmmakers Julia Bacha and Suhad Babaa – brings attention to the under-documented stories of Israeli and Palestinian unarmed activists who are inspiring their communities to work together to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, and equality for all.
Over the last decade Just Vision has built a powerful platform and reached hundreds of thousands of people with their message. Their 5 films challenge the way many perceive protests and activism in the Holy Land, from the story of the unarmed movement in the village of Budrus to the Israeli and Palestinian activists in My Neighborhood and the nonviolent resistance during the First Intifada (The Wanted 18). The Boston Globe said of Budrus, “[This film] will single-handedly change how many people view the conflict.” Read more
by Claire Stewart
“Reconciliation is something bigger than just people who hate each other and making them friends. It represents the heart of God.” – Yoel
At the annual Musalaha Summer Camp, this statement rings true. Children play tag, paint pictures, compete in water games, and worship together. You would never guess that these children are breaking down cultural stereotypes and social barriers as they share meals and laugh with their cabin-mates. Each year, the camp brings together Israeli and Palestinian children to build friendships with the “other” as they learn to build relationships founded on peace.
Over 20 years ago, Salim J. Munayer founded the nonprofit Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic). Out of a vision to see true peace between Palestinian and Israelis, he built an organization whose mission is to promote, advocate, and facilitate reconciliation based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Musalaha’s Philosophy of Reconciliation makes this clear: “It is our belief that Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation of reconciliation, and that forgiveness and healing can only come through following His example and obeying His word.” Read more
by Elli Atchison
The summer of 2014 was an ugly one in Israel and Palestine. The media was filled with reports of a war that devastated Gaza and filled Israel and the West Bank with anxiety and fear. But, out of this tragedy something beautiful began. Like a desert flower that blooms in the harshest conditions of nature, a brave group of Israeli and Palestinian women united to raise their voices and share their perspectives about daily life in the region.
Another Voice is a powerful blog written by eight Palestinian Christian and Messianic Jewish women. To protect themselves and their families, they write anonymously. But, despite a political structure that would have them be enemies, these “sisters in Christ” choose to pursue peace together. They share a common belief in Jesus, as well as the struggle to live amidst conflict on a daily basis.
Both sets of women felt a need to challenge the negative attitudes surrounding them. The Israeli women were tired of hearing about their government’s excuses for violence and lack of mercy. The Palestinian women were also weary of the hopelessness and despair that overwhelmed their people. Together they united to write about their lives, detailing the common struggles and joys of life on both sides of the conflict. Read more
by Elli Atchison
Peter and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, March 2016
Peter is special…. and it shows. This young man from Bethlehem has a twinkle in his eyes and a magnetic smile that draws a stranger in close. Life has been challenging for him as Peter was born with hearing impairments that made learning difficult. This would ordinarily put him in a segment of Palestinian society that is marginalized and cast aside.
However, despite his inability to communicate with words, Peter is outgoing and makes friends easily. He is a talented artist and an accomplished olive wood carver. Peter thanks the Joy School for giving him the opportunity to learn and develop these skills. Read more
by Elli Atchison
Jesus was no stranger to the suffering of our world. He experienced every trial we face today. He did not come to immediately bring an end to sadness and suffering or poverty and injustice. He did not come to overthrow a government or to end political occupations. He came to show us a better way to live, amidst the many tribulations that plague our world. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth.
During the three years Jesus traveled throughout the Holy Land, He constantly talked about the Kingdom. Many times He spoke of it in ways that confused His followers. But, His perfect actions demonstrated the lessons he wanted to teach those who chose to follow Him. The rules of the Kingdom include loving God through obedience and loving others before oneself. They include praying for enemies, refusing to retaliate against evil, and showing kindness even when others don’t. Kingdom values also teach us to trust in God to provide for our needs and all the while to embrace suffering that just does not seem fair. Read more