14 May 2021
Following a joint statement with Methodist partners for peace in Jerusalem, here is a first hand account of life in the region from our local mission partner:
My name is Angleena, I’m a Mission Partner with the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem. I have travelled around the Holy land over the last three years being a part of the chaos and beauty. Now I watch as Jerusalem, Gaza and the land around is on fire and tears fall like rain. The fire has been fuelled by injustice, human rights denied, occupation, oppression, a broken divided society, failed politics and failed leadership. All who live in this land are affected in one way or another. The fire has been stoked over many decades. Last Monday was Jerusalem Day, a national holiday, a day where hundreds of Israeli settlers marched celebrating control over the Holy City in the six-day war in 1967. Saturday, 15th May is Nakba which means ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, when Palestinians remember the day in 1948 when they fled or were expelled from their land, homes and over 400 villages were destroyed. For some it’s a time to celebrate, for others to weep. Decades of history fuels the fire.
Things started to look up as a war was waged against a pandemic of Covid-19, with Israel’s vaccination programme and it seemed a war against sickness, disease and loss of life from a virus was being won, as it became under control. Life started to go back to some form of normality. Then another pandemic raised its ugly head. Jerusalem is on fire, but it’s a fire of hatred of division, disunity, injustice, pain, rage and suffering. And when things started to become normal the racism, distrust, anger and frustrations returned. Freedom of worship, equality and human dignity is not offered to all, as we have seen during Ramadan. Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, but many locals were barred from entering the Old City for the Holy fire ceremony in the Holy Sepulchre. Police barriers forbidding entry to both Muslim and Christians. Jerusalem is on fire, and tears fall like rain.
Jerusalem represents all the people of the land and as we hover on the brink of another war; there are no winners. There is civil unrest, towns are burning and people are being killed, injured, displaced and traumatised. They are tired from constant sirens and bombardments. Jerusalem is on fire and tears fall like rain as Jerusalem wages war against a new pandemic. As Gershom Gorenberg poignantly writes “The cracked bridge has collapsed, the frayed rope has snapped. Weep damm it, weep for us. Weep for this season of wildflowers, weep for the dead and the living, weep for God who can’t get us to stop, weep for humanity. Somehow this will stop, we will see each other’s face, each other’s pain. We will realize this cannot go on. We will find each other. It is what can come after anger and grief, what must come, I have to believe”
Yesterday I attended the installation of Jerusalem’s new Archbishop Hosam Naoum at the Anglican Cathedral, where Christians travelled from all over the land to attend. An uplifting, moving service in dark times, brought some relief and joy as we celebrated, praising God. He reminded us of the importance of Christian unity, and unity that is needed in the world. Jerusalem is on fire and tears fall like rain. It can happen in any community where there are systems that rob people of dignity, hope and equality. May the church of Christ weep damn it and shine brightly speaking out and against injustice everywhere, praying for solutions for the rage and fires lit, praying for a just peace.
May the rage turn to hope in Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in all the land between the Jordan and the sea we call Holy and may the people find each other. Thank you for your continued lament and prayers for the peace of Jerusalem; may it stop burning and the tears stop so lives can be restored and all can freely enjoy the wildflowers.
Angleena Keizer is a Methodist Mission Partner in Jerusalem.