May 19, 2013.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, May 19, 2013 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Fifty days after Easter Christians celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The promise that Jesus proclaims to the disciples before His Ascension to God is fulfilled this day. They were gathered together in Jerusalem after fulfilling the customs for the Jewish Festival of Weeks. The Book of Acts tells us that a great noise was heard and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in many languages. Jerusalem was crowded with Jews from every nation gathered there for the Festival and were astounded when they could understand the disciples, each in their own language.

The Festival of Weeks or Shevu'ot in the Jewish tradition takes place fifty days after Passover and is therefore sometimes referred to as Pentecost. It celebrates both the time when the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Temple and the giving of the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, on Mt. Sinai. Just as Christians count the fifty days to Easter with increasing hope as they experience God's "appearances" in their lives and anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Jews count the days in remembrance of their "Passover" to physical freedom from bondage and the giving of the Torah, which freed them spiritually from their bondage to idolatry and immorality. The giving of the Torah becomes meaningful when it is understood as the way the Jews continually receive the Torah every day of their lives.

These holy days have taken on added significance for those of us who have recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There we can palpably feel the presence of those early disciples of Jesus and renew our own discipleship while honoring the sacred history of salvation as it is experienced by our Jewish brothers and sisters. And yet, the land continues to be filled with conflict and the pain of division. Massignon wrote many words on Palestine as the modern State of Israel was being established. Perhaps out of great love and despair in 1952 he wrote the following:

"[This people] no longer understands that the heroic value with which Abraham practiced the virtue of hospitality was to him not only worthy of having the Holy Land as an inheritance, but to make enter there all the stranger guests that his hospitality has blessed....The hospitality of Abraham is a sign announcing the final consummation of the gathering of all the nations. Blessed by Abraham; this Holy Land must not be monopolized by anyone. And, as much in his nocturnal Ascension as in his first orientation of canonical prayer towards Jerusalem, Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, claimed the portion of Abrahamic blessing, the portion of possession of the Holy Land promised to all the sons of Abraham, sons according to birth or according to adoption through faith." (Écrits Mémorable, vol.1 p. 788)

Having just met many Palestinians and Israelis living in this contested Holy Land and having experienced the crowds in Jerusalem, there is much for us to share as we journey together towards greater appreciation for one another's faith traditions and shared humanity.

Peace to you.