Musalaha is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, based on Biblical Principles of Reconciliation.
Musalaha, which means "reconciliation" in Arabic, was founded in 1990. Since its creation, an executive board of Palestinian and Israeli community and church leaders has led this ministry of reconciliation in taking steps towards unity in our society.
I asked Michel,"So, how do you want to change the world?"
His stared at me with his eyes wide-opened, “How do you know I've been thinking about that?”
I met Michel at Musalaha's summer camp. Six days with 83 children means hours of screaming, sweating, water-splashing, running around, all in the summer heat. After a day full of activities and two hours of dragging the four girls from their gossiping and giggling to their sleeping quarters, I thought to myself,
"What do all these have to do with reconciliation?"
Many look at the situation in our country and continue to ask if there is hope. What does our future look like? I see both hope and a future in our young people.
I have been actively working with Israeli and Palestinian women for many years. I have been sowing and planting with tears, sometimes frustration, but also with much joy when I see the fruits of our labor. Yet, this was the first time I was asked to lead a group of young adults on a cultural exchange with British young people. It was this trip that gave me a renewed vision of our work of reconciliation here at Musalaha.
Much has been written on the impact of the Jewish Nation-State law, passed by the Knesset only a few weeks ago. By defining the state of Israel as the “national home” of the Jewish people, the law declares that the right of self-determination within the State of Israel is exclusive to Jews only. Most popular criticism of the law has correctly stated that it compromises peace, democracy and equal rights for all Israeli citizens, and it has demoralized the non-Jewish segment of Israeli society. In particular, it has diminished legitimacy of the Palestinian people. The aim of this article, however, is to address how this law affects Christians in The Land alongside those of us working in reconciliation.
During a blazing hot week beneath the Middle Eastern sun, we took a group of 75 kids on a journey “back to Egypt.” This was the theme for the first of our two summer camps that took place in Bethlehem and included Muslim and Christian children from the city and its surrounding villages.
Musalaha summer camps are in many ways like any other camp with teaching, crafts, games and so forth, but there is an important dimension that is unique to our camps. We deliberately seek to impart principles of reconciliation to our participants who represent communities across the divide. The demographic makeup of our camps includes people from the cities and villages, Christians from a wide spectrum of churches as well as Muslims. This year almost 50 percent of the participants were from Muslim backgrounds, and much of this had to do with the success of the camp the previous year.
“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord (Isaiah 2:4-5, NIV).”
Too often, prophetic strategies are tamed into romantic ideals, effectively absolving us of responsibility. Too often, rather than implementing Isaiah 2 into our surrounding reality, we reduce it to comforting platitudes, or—ironically—weaponise it in reference to those we deem uncooperative.
This was not so the night of April 17th, where over 7,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for a joint memorial ceremony and inclusive alternative to the national holiday Yom haZikaron. It was the 13th annual event of its nature, inviting bereaved Palestinians and Israelis to commemorate their losses side by side.
A friend of mine, Rev. Phil Rawlings recently sent me his thesis, Beyond Dialogue - An Exploration of the Musalaha: Curriculum of Reconciliation model of interfaith dialogue with relevance for the UK context. Phil is the Director of the Manchester Centre for the Study of Christianity and Islam at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, UK. He will be receiving his doctorate this fall for this work.
Following his frustration in working with various models of interfaith engagement, several years ago Phil adopted Musalaha’s model of reconciliation and applied the Six Stages of Reconciliation to interfaith groups in the UK. As a part of his work, Rawlings initiated meetings among three focus groups that were an integral part of his research and findings. The Priests-Imams group in Oldham, the Oldham Catalyst Group --- a group that brought young adults from the major faiths to engage in an interfaith leadership program, and the Turkish Hizmet - a Dialogue Society group consisting of Muslims and Christians.
This weekend Jewish people around the world will commemorate the Exodus from Egypt as they gather together for Passover, while Christians will celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In both of these narratives, the political leaders (Pharoah and Pontius Pilate), were instrumental in these significant historical events.
Today, our media is obsessed with reporting about our political leaders because many believe these leaders will greatly influence our history.
Many believers often claim that our political leaders have a special destiny in our history because God appointed them. They will be quick to quote passages from Romans 13 about being “subject [submissive] to governing authorities” who are placed in their position by God. These same people then claim that because these verses tell us to submit to our leaders, we should do so without questioning their authority or actions.
In the last few years, with the increase in political turmoil, there has been a rise in the number of people who profess to be prophets and claim that they predicted political events. Many times their prophecies do not reflect God’s attitude of how to treat the weak, marginalized or our enemy. As a result, we are often asked by people about various prophecies and what is our position.
In this short reflection, I do not want to enter into a debate or discussion on various prophecies, but draw your attention to Biblical passages related to true and false prophets.
On a rainy afternoon in Jerusalem, fifty-seven women arrive at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, seeking reconciliation against the odds. Despite common faith in Jesus, the group is far from ordinary---composed of Palestinian Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinian women living in the Palestinian Authority.
Recent political activity tried to exacerbate the distance between these communities; so everyone who walks through the door is performing an act of courage, vulnerability, and gentle defiance against stereotypes. Still, each person carries a unique set of expectations or doubts.