Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ~Matthew 23:37-39 NRSV
Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians remember the sacrificial death of Christ at the hands of religious and political empires. It is the day when just outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus was stripped, mocked, stabbed and crucified on a wooden cross, an instrument of the Roman occupation’s execution for criminals. Not long before his death, at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, he was greeted with the palms and exclamations usually reserved for the king of a nation. But this “king” came instead as a prophet, as a teacher, as the Son of God, with a gospel of love for all. Jesus had wept over Jerusalem, crying out, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42) Christ’s message of inclusion and peace made him one of those prophets targeted and killed by empire and the leaders of the Jerusalem of his day. In our time, principalities and powers still rule in the holiest of cities, Jerusalem.
Nearly a year ago, on May 14, 2018, marking what the State of Israel called the 70th anniversary of independence and the Palestinians commemorate as the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe), the government of the United States of America opened the its embassy in Jerusalem, declaring that the city—all of Jerusalem—was the capital of the State of Israel. The Trump administration had ignored decades of diplomatic protocol on the 1995 congressional act recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, refusing to continue the bi-partisan presidential waver on that act. The White House would not listen to the voices from around the world demanding the US refrain from moving the embassy. Then in early March 2019, the US government merged the US Consulate in Palestinian East Jerusalem with the Jerusalem US Embassy, enshrining in Israeli West Jerusalem the message that all of Jerusalem is regarded as the capital of the Israeli state.
In spite of the denial that this “administrative” move does not change US policy on East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, it sends the chilling message of the USA’s denial of the identity and autonomy of the Palestinian people in their own right. It is the final indication to the Palestinians, after also shutting down the Palestinian consulate in Washington, D.C. this year, that indeed the United States does not know or support “...the things that make for peace.”
With these political actions, the US has shown that it cannot be an honest broker in the search for a genuine peace with justice and full human rights for both Palestinians and Israelis and declares that its political and diplomatic decisions are above international law and global accountability.
For these reasons, in the language of the Gospel of Matthew, the United States has “stoned” those who have relied upon it as a government to deal with justice and wisdom for all parties in the disputes. Over five decades of military occupation and violation of human rights have led to Palestinians being stripped of intact families, homes and ancestral lands, and being forced to become a stateless people. Now they go to Israel to ask for those rights or visas that are taken for granted in so many parts of the globe.
Religious and secular followers of the rabbi and prophet Jesus still weep over Jerusalem. He envisioned all people gathered under the wings of a loving God. And many still gather to pray in their hearts for the city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, to grieve and protest over the crucifixion of hope for that peace that Jesus preached. His vision was rooted deeply in the spiritual values of wholeness, justice and love for all God’s people, including in his homeland, the region that became the “Holy Land.”
Citizens of many nations lift their voices denouncing the Jerusalem embassy move by the US and ask for the country that proclaims itself the “home of the free” to insure freedom for Palestinians, too, and to reset the diplomatic and foreign aid policies with the State of Israel.
And for those of us who gather at the foot of the Cross of our Lord this Good Friday, we bring our solidarity to those who long for the fulfillment of Jesus’ vision for peace. We offer not only our prayers of anguish, but our active commitment to serve Christ by relentlessly seeking freedom and justice for the people of Palestine. And for all who live in the places of suffering and crucified hope.
Katherine Cunningham is a former moderator of IPMN, and a leader in Global Kairos for Justice. Katherine has been an educator and grassroots international advocate for Palestinian human rights and freedom in faith-based and civil society organizations, including Kairos Palestine.