Primers on Israel-Palestine

Well, first off, I don’t know why pasta alla boscaiola isn’t all over all the food blogs. I made it for the first time this winter, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it earlier. The olive oil, pork fat, pasta water, and Parmesan emulsify to make a rich, savory sauce offset by sharp olives and fresh mushrooms, and it is so. good. Because I don’t always have white wine or Italian sausage on hand and I will rarely use up the rest of a carton of heavy cream, I usually make it with red wine rather than white and with ground pork, red pepper flakes, and crushed fennel seed rather than sausage, and I omit the cream. I made it this afternoon as a Last Supper, and it was an excellent Sunday lunch.

A Last Supper, because tomorrow I leave for a fourteen-month stint in Jerusalem. As I’ve been getting ready to go, I’ve thought about the many friends who confessed to me that they don’t know anything about Israel-Palestine, and don’t know how to go about learning about what’s going on. It’s hard to jump into following the news in general, and I think Israel-Palestine is a particularly difficult place to begin.

I began to study the conflict when, during my junior year of college, I took a class on “The Arab-Israeli Conflict” as part of my Jewish Studies minor. I went into the class with no background in or understanding of the conflict, and no familiarity with international events more generally, and my grade reflected my lack of preparation. I didn’t care about the B-something that time, though: this was one of the most influential courses I took while at Penn. I found the material gripping, extraordinarily compelling. I had never seen tensions strung across classrooms in that way, never debated for and against actual political possibilities before, and never seen political life and religion converge in such a way. Since that course, much of my reading has revolved around Israel-Palestine, Judaism and Zionism, Islam, and Middle Eastern politics. I still don’t know much; I’ll know a little more in fourteen months, though, I suspect.

For those looking for a quick brief on the history of Israel-Palestine, I recommend John Green’s thirteen-minute video Conflict in Israel and Palestine: Crash Course World History 223. Then, the Vox cards on “Everything you need to know about Israel-Palestine” make a helpful reference to fill in gaps. Vox also has a ten-minute history of the conflict, a couple videos on settlements, and a list of online pieces with more information on specific issues.

For those looking for a readable, novelistic introduction to Israel-Palestine, I recommend Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree. The book came out of an hour-long program Tolan produced for Fresh Air, and Terry Gross interviewed Tolan upon the book’s publication.

For those looking for a readable account of Christians in the Middle East, I recommend memoirs by Mitri Raheb and Elias Chacour, the most well-known of which is Chacour’s Blood Brothers.

For those looking for a Christian theology of Israel-Palestine, I haven’t read one I really like, but also haven’t read any of those published in the past several years. The essay collections The Land Cries Out and A Land Full of God both ought to be good starting points.

So — next week in Jerusalem?!

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Books I’ve Read in 2018

I’ve begun the habit of listing each book I read in posts by year. I like the sense of accomplishment from uploading and watching each thumbnail appear, and I like skimming over and remembering what I’ve read.

Last year I read exactly 52 books (not counting the dryer requiring reading for classes). I’m proud of having read an average of a book a week while in graduate school, and as I look over the covers, I’d say a good quarter or third of them were really good and meaningful. Not bad odds, but I’d like to read even better books in 2018.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities Wine. All the Time. How to Kill a City Harry Potter and the Cursed Child The Bread of Angels The Good of Giving Up The Enneagram Immortal Diamond Seizing Jerusalem Jesus: A Pilgrimage Islamism The Sacred Enneagram Destiny Disrupted One Hundred Suggestions for Seekers and Spiritual Activists Between the World and Me The Colonizer and the Colonized Camera Lucida My Beautiful Friend A Country Between House of Windows Ecumenism and the Reformed Church, Herman Harmelink III 46 47 48

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Think how much any individual mind, any brain, is enlarged by what we can know through books and through literature — places, people, ideas that we would never otherwise experience, things much larger than anyone could contain in his or her own person. People crave this. You go way back into antiquity and everybody is memorizing Homer, everybody is memorizing “The Epic of Gilgamesh” — works of literature that build the cultural mind and make it capacious. Most of us are not the creators of those things, but we possess ourselves of them — or they possess us of them. And each successive work of literature expands the possibilities of our language, deepening our expressive capacity. In almost every major literature there are works that make you love being human, and make you love and revere the humanity of other people. That is the great potential of any art.
Marilynne Robinson in The New York Times

I’ve been reading so much lately, a book every four or five days and often a book in a day. I’ve loved it; loved feeling my brain expand rapidly day by day by day. Marilynne always knows.

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What [Adorno and Horkheimer] championed was neither high art or low culture, but art that exposed the contradictions of capitalist society rather than smoothing them over — in short, modernist art.
— Stuart Jeffries in Grand Hotel Abyss

This semester I’ve been thinking a lot about preaching and what it is. It is not primarily art and it’s not all about capitalism and society, but still — exposing the contradictions, crossing high and low; I would be very, very proud to be called a modernist preacher.

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Mechtilde of Hackeborn (died 1299) heard these words from the Lord:
“I tell you the truth that I am very pleased when men trustingly expect great things from me. For everyone who believes that I will reward him after this life with more than he deserves, and who correspondingly gives praise and thanks to me in this life, will be so welcome to me thatI will reward him with far more than he could ever believe or boldly hope for, in fact, with endlessly more than he deserves. For it is impossible that someone should not attain what he has believed and hoped. . . . With confident hope you should believe that I will receive you, after your death, as a farther receives his dearest son. . . . I whom am faithfulness itself am incapable of misleading my friends through any sort of deceit.”
As quoted by Hans Urs von Balthasar in Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

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