Witness in Jerusalem

Why is there a conflict in Israel/Palestine?

Nothing enlivens our faith so much as walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Nothing awakes our compassion so much as seeing how Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the land of Jesus today suffer as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; the 70th anniversary of when Britain finally recognized that it was impossible to square the circle of the incompatible promises it had made to Arabs and Jews, packed its bags, and left the land to war; and the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain viewed with favour the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine – without prejudice to the rights of the Arabs in Palestine or the rights of the Jews elsewhere... Read more

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Why is the Church of Scotland in Israel/Palestine?

What follows is, more or less, what I said to the Presbytery of Edinburgh on October 4 and repurposed, with appropriate tweaking, for the Presbytery of International Charges in Lausanne on October 8.

My thanks to both presbyteries for their warm hospitality.

Moderator, let me bring greetings from the Presbytery of Jerusalem.

Not quite so large as this distinguished body, we think of ourselves as small but perfectly formed. We have two ministers and two elders.

I bring greetings also from our partner churches in Israel/Palestine: the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its archbishop, Suheil; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and its bishop, Munib... Read more

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My heart is in Jerusalem

Yom Kippur, October 12 2016 – The solar-powered hot-water tank on the roof of my apartment yesterday died of terminal rust. Somewhat to my astonishment, and with a little help from my neighbours and my landlord’s parents, we got it replaced by lunchtime, before West Jerusalem began to go quiet in the run-up to the Day of Atonement.

Gaza and the West Bank, territories seized by Israel in the six-day war, were quiet for a different reason: they were sealed off for 48 hours for Yom Kippur. The state of Israel routinely imposes such closures during Jewish holidays.

Readers who thought this blog had died of terminal exhaustion may now rejoice... Read more

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Tikkun olam

A sermon for the planet: St Andrew’s Scots Memorial, Jerusalem
1st Sunday after Christmas, December 27 2015
1 Samuel 2.18-26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3.12-17; Luke 2.41-52
Rev Páraic Réamonn, Church of Scotland

Two days ago, Jesus of Nazareth was born. Today, he is 12 – a rapid growth spurt, even for someone who is the saviour of the world. And when he returns to Nazareth with his relieved parents, he continues to grow in wisdom and stature and in divine and human favour.

Two weeks ago, with the bang of a French gavel, 195 countries reached a landmark climate accord to save the planet... Read more

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A world that knows not love


Carrie Ballenger Smith is a pianist, in between serving as pastor of the English-speaking congregation in the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City.

Jonas Schaefer is a guitarist, in between working at the Ecumenical Accompaniment office in Jerusalem.

My wife Vivien is a soprano soloist, in between being my wife – a tougher job, I fear, than either Carrie or Jonas has.

december-6-2015On Sunday December 6, they gave an Advent concert in St Andrew’s Scots Memorial, with music by Bach, Berkeley, Fauré, Ginastera, Grieg, Hahn, Handel, and Schubert.[1]

The concert was free, but no one gets out of a Scottish church without paying... Read more

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Why are we here?

St Andrew’s Day sermon, November 30 2015
Isaiah 55, Psalm 9.7-11, John 12.20-36
St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem

Barbara Trapido’s first novel, published in 1982, was called Brother of the More Famous Jack, a book that redefined the coming-of-age novel.[1] My next St Andrew’s Day sermon will be called Brother of the More Famous Peter.

The truth is, we don’t know a lot about St Andrew. He is mentioned a mere eleven times in our gospels, and two of those are in lists of the twelve, chosen to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel.

Nor did St Andrew, in any legend that I know of, bring the gospel to Scotland... Read more

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Happy New Year!

We don’t get much Bible study in the Guardian or the New York Times. But in this as in so many other ways, Israel is different.

Haaretz – the liberal daily that most resembles these two newspapers – is just one of many sources to offer reflections on the portion of the week – the parashat from the Torah assigned for reading in the synagogues on Shabbat.

Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18.1-22.24) does double duty. It is read not only on the assigned Sabbath but also on the two days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday we have just celebrated... Read more

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A striking thought

On Tuesday last week, I wrote a letter on behalf of Tabeetha School in Jaffa to Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel. On Thursday, I helped craft a letter for Angus Morrison, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, to send to David Cameron on the same subject.

Life as minister of the Scots Memorial is endlessly fascinating, but I have to say that this is not the sort of thing I do every week.

Some may even think it is not the sort of thing a minister should be doing. The task of a minister, in their view, is to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments... Read more

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Exodus church

John McCulloch’s last hurrah. For now.

During my time in Jerusalem I was fortunate to meet with bishops, nuns, priests, patriarchs, ministers, liberation theologians and activists from across the ecclesiological divide. The richness of our Christian traditions is on display in Jerusalem, with Russian Orthodox, Copts, Armenians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Melkites, Franciscans, Dominicans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and many others presenting a multifaceted picture of Christianity.

When you add Judaism and Islam into the mix, it makes for a vibrant mosaic of religious traditions and practices.

Immersion in this context made me reflect on the role of the church in the 21st century. The churches in Jerusalem face similar challenges as we do in Europe and the west: congregations that are declining – albeit for different reasons – and struggling to be relevant in societies that are divided and in need of healing... Read more

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Do not accept

John McCullochA penultimate guest post from John McCulloch (above)

The opening line of Yehuda Amichai’s poem ‘Do Not Accept’, solicits us to resist and question that which seems beyond our control:

Do not accept these rains that come too late.
Better to linger. Make your pain
An image in the desert.

In our age of multimedia communication and round-the-clock new bulletins, there is a danger that we become so overwhelmed with the tragedy of war and injustice across the globe that we become paralysed into believing that there is nothing we can do. For the most part, we just capitulate to the economic structures that keep millions in poverty... Read more

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