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‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.’ (Psalm 122 v6)
We cannot be sure who wrote Psalm 122, or even when it was written. But the first line of the Psalm – ‘I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord’ – suggests that it is probably the work of a Jewish pilgrim reflecting on his journey to the Jerusalem Temple and giving thanks for the blessings he experienced there.
The terrible events of the past week in Israel and Gaza have been a wearyingly familiar reminder that, many centuries later, the city of peace – which is, after all, what Jerusalem means – continues to be a place where blessings are in short supply. It is, rather, a city of bitterly contested interests at the heart of a wider territorial dispute between Jews and Palestinians. The unspeakable and brutal terror visited on Jewish communities by Hamas across Israel has been met by the full force of Israeli military might against Gaza in which not only Hamas militants but also countless Palestinian civilians have been caught up. Hundreds who crave peace, on both sides of this conflict, have been killed or taken hostage, mute witnesses to a mutual hatred that has bred a seemingly relentless cycle of violence and bloodshed
Competing political visions and rhetoric lie behind, and continue to feed, the divisions that drive this brutal conflict. Ironically, perhaps, it may be that the three great religious traditions represented in this part of the Middle East are best placed to challenge the politics and to begin to heal these divisions. At the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is a common desire for God’s reign of peace, justice and reconciliation. However challenging the circumstances might seem to be, voicing this common desire has never been more important. May the prayer of the psalmist for Jerusalem be our prayer for all Israelis and Palestinians: ‘peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces’.
With love and prayers.
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