Abraham is remembered as the miraculous father of three great religions, known as the "religions of the book." He is the father of Ishmael, whose offspring are exceedingly numerous. He is also the father of Isaac, whose offspring are also many. When Abraham died at age 175, these most famous sons, Ishmael and Isaac, buried him in the cave of Machpélah, in the field that Abraham had purchased from the Hittites and where Abraham had buried his wife, Sarah, Isaac's mother, years before.
Both sons wanted to honor their father. Each son also sought to honor his own mother. It seems Isaac and Ishmael got along in spite of the tensions inherent in triangular relationships.
Why don't their descendants get along? Or do they?
When I visited Bethlehem and Jerusalem, I found that some descendants of Abraham's sons get along quite well. I met two representatives of Parents Circle Family Forum who came to Bethlehem to speak to a workshop I participated in. Parents Circle is an organization in Jerusalem whose ticket for membership is that a close relative died in the conflict.
Robi Damelin is the mother of an Israeli soldier who died. "A sniper shot my son, David," she said, "because he had on the uniform of the Israeli Defense Force." She has great pride in the personhood of her son. "After David was killed, I looked for a way to stop the cycle of violence. I joined Parents Circle. I'm convinced that a nonviolent way is the only way to end the conflict. There are 500 or more families in Parents Circle. I'm Jewish and an Israeli, and I go to meetings like this with him," she added, smiling as she pointed to the man next to her.
Ali Abu Awwad is a Muslim and the brother of Yousef, who died from an Israeli soldier's bullet, shot simply because the soldier stopped him at a checkpoint. "I have a mission that my brother's death will mean something," he said. Awwad admits he had thrown stones at Israeli soldiers when he was a youth, and some of his family tell him he could be a martyr by dying in a terrorist act. "Instead, I go to meetings, to schools, to places of worship and I open my mouth," he said. "I want people to see us. When Robi and I talk to those people, they start crying."
I didn't cry, though some workshop participants did. I just marveled at the speakers' compassion and commitment to peace. What makes a woman like Damelin, a man like Awwad, forgive? What makes them risk their safety by talking to others? The motto of Parents Circle is: "If we who have suffered the most can get along, why can't our leaders?"
Almost together they ended the session by saying they want the world to understand what people need to do to live as humans. "Don't be pro Israel," Damelin said.
"Don't be pro Palestine," Awwad added.
As if they had rehearsed it, they said: "Be pro solution. We want peace and reconciliation."
Another descendant of Abraham lived in the Holy Land, as some still call it. Jesus of Nazareth — born of Mary and Joseph, known to Christians as the incarnate Son of God — brought good news to the captives, healing and uplifting people.
Next week, Holy Week, when Christians gather on Maundy Thursday once again, we will hear Jesus' words to his followers: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12).
It seems that people like Damelin and Awwad have done just that. Why don't we all?
This week's front page features:
The question of undocumented immigrants: From a Lutheran faith perspective, answers differ. (Photo at right.)
Three congregations work to stop deportations: In New York City, 'following the rules of the land.'
'Acrimony' toward illegal workers.: Iowa wasn't where Rick Hernandez thought he would end up.
A synod offers sanctuary.: In Southwest California, a synod supports the New Sanctuary interfaith movement
Also: God crosses borders:
Also: Seeing all angles:
Also: Palm Sunday.
Baxter on "little graces":
Baxter, a student at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., is serving an internship at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Oakland, Calif. He's blogging about his internship experience for The Lutheran.
This week on our blog:
Andrea Pohlmann writes about gambling addiction and directs readers to a six-session study they can use in their congregations.
Elizabeth Hunter (right) blogs twice this week. She writes on plagiarizing sermons and a cafe in Croatia that accepts prayers as payment.
Sonia Solomonson asks whether we "miss the miracle" because we expect God to act in a certain way.
The March issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:
Don't let them miss another issue.
The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
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