Witness in Jerusalem

Stockholm syndrome

In its report to the general assembly on Thursday May 25, the Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty’s Forces asked the assembly to approve a covenant with those who serve or have served in the armed forces and their families.

Here is what I said in the debate.

St Andrew’s Scots Memorial – the church I serve in Jerusalem – is a war memorial, built and dedicated to remember the Scottish soldiers who died fighting with Allenby in the Palestine campaign in the Great War.

On our walls also are plaques remembering other dead, including the police and soldiers who died in Palestine during the Mandate... Read more

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Come dwell in Solomon’s walls

From my Partner Plan letter, written on May 18

On the Sunday evening after Easter, St Andrew’s Scots Memorial hosted the Detroit Methodist Chorale for a concert of sacred music. This group of 25 women and men from the Detroit, Michigan, area in the United States were on tour in the Holy Land. They sang songs and spirituals drawn from the Old Testament before taking us in music on a Christian pilgrimage from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in nearby Bethlehem to his death and resurrection in our own town.

In the first part of the concert, they sang the song in my subject line, along with “Bright Canaan”, “Deep River” (an African-American spiritual), and “Zion’s walls” (a revivalist song from the 1850s, in a setting by Aaron Copeland)... Read more

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On not endorsing BDS

In the general assembly debate on Monday May 22 on Embracing Peace and Working for Justice, a joint report of the World Mission Council and Church and Society Council on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, Rev Tom Gordon of the Presbytery of Edinburgh proposed a counter-motion[1] to a deliverance from the joint working group. I proposed an amendment to his counter-motion. My amendment was carried handsomely – I may have to get used to being popular – and the counter-motion as thus amended was accepted by the assembly.

The deliverance read: “Deplore the increased expansion of settlements which are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace”... Read more

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People in glasshouses

On Monday May 22, the general assembly of the Church of Scotland debated Embracing Peace and Working for Justice, a joint report of the World Mission Council and Church and Society Council on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

Here follows what I said in my first comment on the report.

Jesus of Nazareth tells us to worry about the log in our own eye before fussing about the speck in the eye of the other. He tells us this because we are slow of heart and slow to hear him.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just a conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people... Read more

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Going to the root

This is an extract from my report to the annual general meeting of the Society of the Friends of St Andrew’s, Jerusalem, which met in the Lindisfarne Room of St Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh, on Friday May 19.

“To be radical,” said the young Karl Marx, “is to go to the root.”

The Church of Scotland does excellent work in this cruel and crazy land, both in and through our own institutions in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Tiberias and through the indigenous Anglican and Lutheran churches and the wide range of NGOs, Christian and non-Christian, Palestinian and Israeli, who are our partners.

But this good work is wasted if we fail to identify, or misidentify, the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the root of what people here call “the situation”... Read more

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Six lessons, nine carols, and a recitative

“Halas!” said Naheel.

“Halas” is a useful Arabic word. It can mean that something is finished or done. It can also translate “Enough already!”

Naheel is head of housekeeping in St Andrew’s Scots Guesthouse. On the side she takes care of my church,[1] and “Enough already!” is what she meant.


She was talking about the Christmas tree.

We put it up last year in time for Advent, as we always do. Its green leaves and red and white lights at the back of the church nicely match the Advent wreath on the baptismal font up front.

But we didn’t take it down after Epiphany, as we usually do... Read more

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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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