Monday, 15 June 2015
The latest ‘words of wisdom’ from the Church of Scotland propaganda machine against Israel
The latest ‘words of wisdom’ from the Church of Scotland propaganda machine:
A guest post by John McCulloch, who is currently doing a six-week summer placement in St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem.
John serves up the usual friendly CoS pat –on-the-back quickly followed by the knife-in-the-back, common to the CoS propaganda machine.
Praying at the wall
One of the most memorable images that will remain with me for a long time was observing hundreds of Hassidic and Ashkenazi Jews flocking through the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, walking hurriedly towards the Western Wall to pray at the start of Shabbat. Dressed in their black coats and wrapped in the tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl), wearing kolpiks and shtreimel fur hats, many hand-in-hand with their sons and family members, they congregated at the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
Seeing hundreds of Jews bowing in prayer before the wall while reciting from the Torah was a transcendent moment. The rituals of prayer soon gave way to singing, and groups of men and boys joined hands and circled round as their petitions filled the air.
What stirred me deeply was seeing a people who have been persecuted and expelled from over a hundred territories down the centuries worshipping openly, in great numbers, and in relative peace and safety at the most sacred place in Judaism.
Jews in Europe have been persecuted and expelled wherever they have settled: France and Germany in 1182, England in 1290, Hungary in 1360, Spain in 1492, the Netherlands in 1582, Russia in 1727 and, of course, Nazi-controlled territories between 1938 and 1945.
With a rising tide of anti-semitism in Europe today, it was moving to see so many able to express their very visual faith so openly, strengthened by the solidarity and presence of their community. But this was not the only wall that left its mark on me.
A few days later, I travelled with my wife and four young children into the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, through the checkpoints manned by the Israeli army, to visit the cities of Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus and Ramallah.
The 700km-long wall, with its electric gates and barbed-wire fencing, acts as a separation barrier to control the movement of the Palestinians living in the West Bank. Those in favour point to a reduction of attacks on Israeli soil; those who oppose it see it as a mechanism for imprisoning and controlling the movement of Palestinians.
I had occasion to visit a Palestinian refugee camp, set up back in 1948 when families uprooted from their homes in Jerusalem were forced to live in make-shift accommodation, fenced in and corralled behind barbed wire, divested of all rights and privileges.
As I spoke with a young man living there today, he told me how his people were prisoners in their own land, separated from their homeland and places of worship by an eight-metre concrete wall, unable to visit family and loved ones on the other side, discriminated against as second-class citizens in the land of their birth. He told me that his grandparents had fled there in 1948, and since then his family had not had the means to leave.
He was born in 1988 in the refugee camp, where there was only running water once a fortnight. Enforced curfews meant that his mother could not leave the camp to go to hospital to have her baby, and there was only one Palestinian doctor in the camp for 30,000 people.
So he was born on a dark night in a refugee camp.
As the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish writes:
A person can only be born in one place. However, he may die several times elsewhere: in the exiles and prisons and in a homeland transformed by the occupation and oppression into a nightmare.
Both the Western Wall and the Separation Wall are places of tears – places that evoke loss, eviction, and pain. And both are places of prayer.
During his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Pope Francis prayed at the Western Wall, identifying with the plight of Jews down the centuries. He also prayed at the Separation Wall, to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, prisoners in their own country, and to pray for peace.
Isaac Newton said, “We build too many walls, and not enough bridges.”
Henri Nouwen wrote, “One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.”
They echo the sentiment of the apostle Paul, who in Ephesians 2:14 wrote, ‘ For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.’. Christ’s message is all about reconciliation, healing, restoring, loving our enemies, and overcoming fear through love.
Hannah Arendt, the Jewish political theorist (and erstwhile lover of Martin Heidegger), says that “forgiveness is the key to action and freedom”. But forgiveness can only come, in a context such as this, when justice is done; and justice here lies in the hands of the state of Israel, which wields the political and military power.
Never were the words “With power comes responsibility” so desperately relevant.
If there is ever to be peace and reconciliation in this beautiful and yet troubled land, it will only come when power is shared between Jews and Palestinians, built on the foundations of justice and dignity for all. It will come when Jews and Palestinians realize that they are not each other’s worst enemies, but brothers and sisters with a shared heritage.
True freedom, liberty and security will only come when the dividing walls of separation and injustice are torn down, and Palestinian and Jew learn to see each other as brother and sister, rather than as alien and foe, renewed by love and hope.