Sunday morning began with Holy Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral mostly in Arabic and a bit in English. Bishop Suheil Dawani, our recent guest at Christ Church, preached about the value of  fasting for Lent. I can assure you that fasting is not one of the things I have been doing since I arrived here.

After church, I was invited to have lunch at the home of Naim and Maha Ateek. Their son, Sari and I met at seminary. He graduated from VTS the year before I did and is now the rector of St. John’s in Chevy Chase, MD. Naim Ateek is an Episcopal priest who runs a Palestinian peace and justice organization called Sabeel. Maha plays the organ and does the flowers for the Cathedral. They are lovely people and every time I come to Jerusalem, I make a point of saying hello.

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Our lunch at the Ateeks was a sumptuous meal with spirited conversation among the eclectic group of locals and sojourners assembled. We talked at length about the plight of the Palestinians. All of a sudden, Maha’s sister, Abla, put a question to the Americans in the room: “Tell me, how can Americans turn away from the systematic injustice done to the Palestinians for 65 years?” She was not accusatory, just truly curious. She continued, “There are intelligent people in your congress. They have been here. This is not new. Why do they choose to look away? Why have they chosen silence?” We tried to explain the power of special interests in the US political system, the political risk of being perceived to be anti-Israel. We said that it is easier to be critical of Israel in Israel than it is in the US. But I admit, her question pierced my heart.  I felt quite exposed and powerless to address her question with any solace or satisfaction.  

Later in the day, I had dessert and coffee with my friend of three years Hosam Naoum, his wife Rafa, and their children. Our new seminarian, Fares Hosam, is the younger brother of Hosam, now the Dean of St. Georges’ Cathedral. I am always inspired by Hosam’s gentleness, his sweet hopefulness in the face of so many difficulties, his deep gratitude for the blessings God has bestowed upon him and his family.  He always speaks with such kindness when he says, “It is the right of Christians to worship here, just as it is the right of Muslims and Jews to worship here.” He believes it is possible for all to live here in peace. And he asks all of us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It was a day of feasting on wonderful food and different perspectives. Each person I talk to brings their unique flavor and adds another piece to this very complex puzzle. Fasting will begin soon enough.