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Conflict in the Holy Land: How We Can Provide Hope in the Rubble


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Conflict in the Holy Land: How We Can Provide Hope in the Rubble

Guest Commentary by The Very Rev. Heather VanDeventer | St. John’s Cathedral

Like many of you, I have not been to the Holy Land. While I have traveled to many other sacred sites around the world — and never for enough time — it has never been the “right” time for me to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Jordan and other places.

Most of the time when I think of those places in Israel and Palestine, I have images in my mind that are a mishmash of art in illustrated Bibles, scenes from movies set in the Holy Land and dusty (always dusty) streets and adobe brick villages from my imagination.

I also think about the shining Dome of the Rock, the faithful crowded alongside the Western Wall, the darkened interiors of ancient churches, as well as modern cities not found in illustrated Bibles.

In these recent months in particular, those images have been joined by destroyed buildings, strewn damaged cars, cratered streets and the suffering people, old and young, in the Gaza Strip. I have wept while the news has shown Israeli families in their grief at senseless deaths at a music festival and in their anger because of family members held hostage by Hamas militants.

I have wept while the news has shown Palestinian families in their grief because family members were killed in their homes by bombs, in their anger at being told to seek refuge in another city (again and again) and in their despair at the lack of food and safe water for their starving children. I have had my own sense of despair in reading how Palestinian residents of the West Bank are experiencing military incursions and also no tourists, which means a lack of income.

Hope in the Rubble

The Diocese of Jerusalem, also known as Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, has a complex history in which ministry has shifted from a focus on English-speaking ex-pats to significant growth and ecumenical partnerships with Palestinian Christians and friends from across the Anglican Communion.

The size of the Diocese of Jerusalem is a little smaller than the Diocese of Spokane, in terms of number of congregations, but it is spread across Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as Israel and Palestine. The Diocese of Jerusalem also supports and oversees 30 institutions including schools, St. George’s College, guesthouses for pilgrims, retirement homes and a variety of medical institutions, including hospitals like Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

As I continue the Lenten journey with my church locally, I invite them to intentionally hold our Christian siblings in prayer alongside our Jewish and Muslim siblings. In particular, I invite them to pray for the clergy, people, churches and ministries of the Diocese of Jerusalem.

Supporting those Who Can Give Hope

And for those who are able, I invite them to consider making a donation of support to the Diocese of Jerusalem through the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem or via the Good Friday Offering (now in its 102nd year having been established in the aftermath of World War I). I ask them to also consider making a donation of support to St. George’s College, Jerusalem.

If that resonates with you, dear reader, please join us as well.

I can think of no better way to conclude my thoughts on this conflict than with this Prayer for the Human Family from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Heather VaDeventer

The Very Rev. Heather VanDeventer has served as Dean of the Cathedral since August 2018.

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

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Walter A Hesford
Walter A Hesford
1 month ago

Thank you and your church for making a special effort to support those suffering through the war in the holy land. The Lutheran church also sustains a presence in in this area with hospital, a church, a refugee center. Those wishing to donate may do so through Lutheran Disaster Relief: Middle East Crisis.

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