(This should have been posted on Sunday, at the end of our first full day in Israel. Apologies for the confusion.) Shalom or Salam is "peace". And so when its pointed out, it makes sense that Jerusalem is literally the "city of peace", though it hardly fits that description today. But even 3,000 years ago it saw strife, with its King David writing:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” (Psalm 122.6-7)
But still he was also able to write
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of The Lord.” Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. (Psalm 122.1)
That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord — to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. (Psalm 122.4)
And, this Sunday, we were glad to have joined Palestinians and some other nationalities praising the name of the Lord in an Arabic service in St.George's Cathedral. It felt weird trying to sing along to the carol "Once in Royal David's city" to a radically different tune, but we were still able to sing and worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We also joined in that other shared liturgy of coffee after the service, where we discovered one of the clergy, a Palestinian, trained at Cambridge's other Anglican training college, Westcott House. And we talked to Revd Naim Ateek about his work in the "Sabeen" Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre, about leadership and prospects for a viable Two State solution for Israel and Palestine. We hope to hear much more about this in the coming days. And we heard first-hand from a Palestinian Christian who lives only a few km from the cathedral as the crow flies, but as his house is just a few hundred feet the wrong side of the Israeli "security wall", they have to travel an extra 10km and submit to one of the innumerable checkpoints, which normally takes an hour. All this just to go to church.
In another example of less-then-friendly Israeli policy, we've now heard that the much-delayed visa application for the 6 Indian seminarians has been approved, but only if they are willing to pay $12,000 each for the privilege. Needless to say that can't afford that, and so won't be flying to join us, which is a big disappointment for them and for us. (And it makes us glad to be coming from the EU where they waive visa requirements.) Just how much trouble do they think 6 trainee vicars can cause the state of Israel?