Sisters and Brothers,
As you may know, I’m out of the country from January 6th through January 17th. I’m traveling in the Holy Land and surrounding Palestine, participating in a doctoral class through Phillips Theological Seminary. I’m excited about this trip. We land in Israel on what will be the Orthodox Church’s celebration of Christmas. Our first stop is Bethlehem. I’ll be staying at the Bethlehem Square Hotel, which is within walking distance of the cave where St. Jerome lived for a time. I’ll have a chance to visit the Church of the Nativity. During this trip my classmates and I will also be traveling to Jerusalem, to the Holy Sepulture, the Via de la Rosa and to other surrounding holy sites. I will do my best to post photos and insights regularly. You can stay tuned by following my journey on this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StJeromeChurchTulsa
On this trip, my fellow pilgrims and I are meeting with Christians, Muslims and Jews. We’re exploring the heartbreaking saga that is taking place in the area where Jesus once lived. What has been transpiring over the past decades – since the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel – is heartbreaking. While we want to be supportive of our Jewish allies, the polices they are enforcing – and we are supporting – has had a devastating effect on Palestinian Christians. Did you know that Palestine was once predominantly Christian? Today, Christians only make up about 2% of the population. The Jewish state has systematically uprooted whole swaths of Christian and Muslim communities. They have imposed over 1300 Military laws which makes travel between Palestinian cities nearly impossible. Imagining it taking 3 hours to get from Broken Arrow to the only hospital in Tulsa. Imagine not being able to visit family who live in the next town. Imagine going on a trip and coming home to find your home and your land confiscated because you didn’t have the right building permit – even though your home was built way before the permits came into being.
Over the past few months, I’ve been reading books about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I have gained a new perspective regarding what is going on in the region. The tension between Palestinians and the Jewish state is real. The threat is always present. We’ve heard the stories of Palestinians attacking Jewish settlements. What we don’t hear much of is how they are attacking areas that used to be their homeland. One must ask, “How would you react if some foreign country took over your family farm, or decimated your whole village?” It is true that a country has the right to defend itself. Israel is surrounded by countries that aren’t so friendly to them. But continuing to add insult to injury toward a people who wanted to live in peace only creates animosity and ill feelings.
Most people do not realize that the Jewish Zionist movement – which urges for the complete displacement of all Palestinians – was not something that was conceived after WWII as a result of the Holocaust. It was something envisioned much, much earlier. In fact, there was some discussion about establishing a new Jewish state elsewhere. But too many folks believe that Israel should be established in the Holy Land. Zionists take a radical stance so that each time there is any conflict, the Jewish State uses it as an excuse to push a bit further, to crack down a bit harder, to make it more difficult for Palestinians to remain. The result is that Zionists are winning and Christians are suffering. Time and time again, Israel has been accused of human rights violations. They have taken more and more land illegally. And we, as Americans, are blindly offering our unwavering acquiescence to these atrocities. We, as Christians, are sitting on the sidelines while our Christian brothers and sisters are abused and mistreated.
Our blind allegiance to Israel stems from a misguided misinterpretation of scripture. It is based on a theology that made its way into the Pentecostal and Southern Baptist traditions. It was promoted by great televangelists like Jerry Falwell, John Hagee and others. It is based on the belief that establishing the state of Israel will usher in the end times and the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth. So the goal is to support the Jewish state at any cost. TV evangelists have been promoting Christian Zionism for some 50 years or so. And Jewish Zionists are more than happy to receive their monetary and political support. What the Christian Zionists fail to fully reveal is that their theology also includes the belief that in the end, when Christ does return all Jews are expected to convert to Christianity – or burn in hell. So the whole thing is a duplicitous relationship based on dysfunctional ideologies.
So what are we to do? How can we be an agent for good? How can we support our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters while at the same time protect our Jewish allies? These are tough questions to ask. They are even tougher to answer. The first thing we need to do educate ourselves about what is happening. We must pull back the curtain and take a closer look at the actions and the motives behind them. That is perhaps at least a good start.
Blessings! Fr. Dewayne
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