Prof. Robert Hunt – Impressions from Jerusalem – 3

Bonfires in Jerusalem


Well I’m in the hotel bar, having a Macabee beer (really not that great), and wrapping up a read of the Jerusalem Post. Just had a full day of study. First Job in the morning, then Talmudic texts centered on the Lamentations of Jeremiah and moves toward understanding God’s presence in the world as feminine (see Shekinah) It wasn’t tedious but it had absolutely no relationship to typical Christian Bible study procedures and would be difficult to explain.

So to the Post. Front page was the (most probably) Iranian bomb that has now killed nine Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. A list of Iranian bomb plots in other countries against Israelis, not covered in the US press, makes it appear that with or without nuclear weapons Iran plans to kill as many Israelis as it can. Israelis say that this hasn’t entered into the sanctions talks. But we probably shouldn’t get started (on the basis of lists of people killed extrajudicially and possibly innocently) by Israel’s enemies, its friends and its own security services. What is clear in the Post editorial section is that even throwing rocks at Israelis is terrorism, while bombing Gaza is war. All about frames of reference.

Speaking of which. Remember the New Testaments sent to Knesset members? Well one Ben Ari got so upset he tore his up in front of the Knesset and tossed it in the trash. “This revolting book brought massacres of the Jews . . .” He was condemned by Christian and Muslim MP’s for desecrating a holy text. Then one of them decided to take the low road and tore up a poster of a rabbi and threw it in the trash. Thus interfaith understanding moves forward in the Holy Land.

Today’s editorial page featured an article by an American Jewish columnist about how Israel was losing the support of American Jews by insulting them openly with its policies. Almost no US rabbis are recognized, and the local orthodox rabbis have called them heretics whose works should be burned. Then letters to the editor telling American Jews where they could get off – Israeli Jews can manage its own affairs thank you. Local head of the AJC said his statistics showed that American Jewish support for Israel stayed constant. The sports section covered major league baseball and US football front page, with the Tour de France in the back.

Oh yes, huge coverage of the funeral of a very senior leader of the Haridi (who are extreme orthodox or something like that – one local rabbi told me there is a sect for every 17th century Jewish village in Poland) while other stories weren’t very flattering about a group that does no national service, does no useful work, lives on the dole, and in some cases doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel! Some of them ran off to Iran a few years ago to join a Holocaust denial conference. It turns out that the term “Jew” is rather multivalent in the Jewish homeland.

Finally continued fallout over the self-burning of homeless people – and shocking allegations about bureaucratic inefficiency, coupled with what can only be called typically bureaucratic blasé reactions; hiding behind rules and procedures. Beneath it all I read (and was later told) that just over a dozen interconnected families control virtually all of the Israeli economy, and are using that control to squeeze the middle class with increased prices and stagnant wages.

And still – a video about a movement that holds monthly bonfires in the West Bank and Israel for Muslims, Christian, and Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, settlers, etc. Lots of dancing, music, hugging, and generally getting to know people you don’t like. Very positive.

Interesting place, this “holy” land.

Dr. Robert Hunt

Director of Global Theological Education
Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligious Relations.
Southern Methodist University

(Text published with the kind permission of the author.)

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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