On March 20, 2006, I traveled from the Little Town in Occupied Territory of Bethlehem to the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. This awe inspiring site sits above the shimmering Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and I ended up delivering my own Sermon on that Mount
Four Franciscan Sisters, one each from Syria, Jordan, Malta and Italy care for the shrine and the pilgrim guests at the Hospice Center where I spent two nights and a day of silent reflection of all I had witnessed the previous nine days during my third of five reality tours through occupied Palestine.
At dinner a Catholic Pentecostal from Scotland introduced himself and asked me why I was there and what church I was from. I responded that I have Irish Roman Catholic, Polish Jew, Russian Orthodox and Episcopal roots; but that my rock is The Beatitudes.
He looked even more perplexed when I told him I came to the Mount of Beatitudes to decompress and reflect upon my nine days in Occupied Territory. I asked him if he were aware of the work of Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian founded organization that promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation for all, regardless of faith path or nationality.
He sternly admonished me, “God gave this land to the Jews! The Bible never mentions Palestine, and that is that! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
I responded just as fervently that the Palestinian Christians are the descendants of those who first followed Christ and they have been denied inalienable human rights by the Israeli government. I told him the Christians in the Holy Land have shrunk from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 and if things don’t change soon, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Christ promised that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God.
He sputtered, “But the Jews have suffered! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
This really got my Irish up and I retorted, “Yes they did because good people did nothing for far too long, and now the oppressed have become the oppressors. In the 21st century good people are unaware, ignoring or are in total denial of the injustice in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the people of what the Lord requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your God!”