MUSALAHA is the Arabic word for reconciliation. It is also an organization based in Israel that specializes in the reconciliation between Palestinian and Jewish believers in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Founded in Jerusalem by Dr. Salim J. Munayer in 1994, Musalaha is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. For those who have a common faith, they advocate and facilitate reconciliation encounters among Israeli and Palestinian believers based on the life and teaching of Jesus. Within the wider community, they seek to impact their societies through building bridges among Muslims, Christians, and Jews according to Abrahamic moral principles contained in all three faiths. Salaam, or Shalom–peace is an elusive thing in Israel and Palestine, but thanks to the work of Musalaha, dividing walls are coming down and communities of trust are being built one person at a time as hearts are touched and lives are recommitted to the message of hope and reconciliation brought by a shared Saviour. HOPE has formed an agency agreement with Musalaha to bring hope and healing to hurting individuals in Jesus name and to help bring Christ’s message of reconciliation to the holy land.
SEE MUSALAHA’S WEBSITE HERE.
Salim J. Munayer, PhD, Founder of MUSALAHA
April 17, 2020 Dr. Salim J. Munayer – Executive Director, Musalaha
For the past two weeks, more than any time before, we felt the negative impacts of social distancing in Jerusalem over Easter (Western calendar) and Passover. This will continue in the upcoming weeks as many Christians in the Middle East celebrate Easter by the Eastern calendar and Muslims will be entering into a month of fasting for Ramadan. One thing is certain, the corona virus has a universal impact on us all. But at the same time, we know that many people in the Holy Land, and around the world, will be affected differently due to insufficient medical care, welfare structures and poverty. So, while the virus is indeed universal, the impact is particular.
What we have also noticed during these times is that tribal boundaries have been raised up more firmly. Stereotypes and dehumanization towards people of other ethnic, religious and national people groups are on the rise. We may label other groups that are more infected as unclean, backward and unable to conform to science and health regulations. This attitude can also be manifested on a more international level between states. Claiming that some states or ‘civilizations’ are more primitive than others. This adds to the particular way the virus is impacting some people more than others and reinforcing the imbalance of power between individuals, communities and states.
As I was sharing my thoughts about Jesus’ resurrection with my sons this Easter, we began to discuss together not only the historical and archaeological evidence of the resurrection, but the impact of the resurrection on Jesus’ followers as well. The resurrection gave a new vision, understanding and motivation in their discipleship. At that time, many followers of Jesus were preoccupied with and limited by their tribal, religious and ethnocentric identities. They wanted to confine who could and could not join the community of faith. Moreover, some disciples were trying to make new followers like themselves. In order to become a member, one had to change to a certain extent their cultural and ethnic identities.
But with the resurrection, all tribal, religious and ethnocentric boundaries were broken. It completely shattered the existing assumptions on who was part of the community of faith. Instead of forcing cultural assimilation, the resurrection transformed the disciples to view “others” as people who need to be blessed and welcomed to the community of faith as they are. We can often fall into this narrow thinking as well. We may think that people need to be enlightened and become like us in order to be part of our community of faith. Rather than embracing other people and their uniqueness and particularity. All of us can fall into the trap of adopting patronizing attitudes towards others and think that we are better.
In Acts chapter 10, when Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, we can see these tensions and dynamics. Cornelius in many ways was the ultimate “other” to Peter, he was a non-Jew, the Roman occupier and in a threatening location. In this story we have binary identities that are hostile to each other on many levels. Peter even expresses this uncomfortable encounter and its challenges by saying “you are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (10:28). What is striking in this verse is that Peter is honest with the cultural and ethnic tensions of his visit. He does not ignore it, but confronts it.
He continues to express his conviction on the matter by claiming God’s love for all people, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (10:34-35). This is the power of the cross and resurrection, God has reconciled not only ourselves to him, but to each other. Peter, like many of us, can be bound and locked to our ethnocentric favoritism, privileges and exclusivity. And in the same way that he needed a major event to transform his thinking and cross the cultural and ethnic divide, meet and welcome the ultimate “others” as family, and thus embracing them as equals, during this Easter period and corona virus crisis we too can be reminded to do the same. This is the beauty of the resurrection and its reconciling power.
The desert is a place where, biblically, God’s people wrestled with Him and the difficulties in their lives. It was also a place of great spiritual growth and maturity.
Today, Musalaha takes Jewish and Palestinian Arab believers into the desert together to live and worship together; to tear down the walls that divide them so that hopefully by the end of their encounters, they will have made new friends in Christ.
Groups share camel treks, jeep tours, and hiking trips through the deserts of the Sinai, Negev (in Israel), or Jordan. the desert is a uniquely neutral atmosphere, where everyone is in the same position, working together to negotiate the hardships of the desert sun or a stubborn camel. The challenges of survival and cooperation provide an excellent occasion for relationships and open communication. Each trip has been a unique experience of cultural and spiritual discovery. For more information go to www.musalaha.org
Desert Encounter with Musalaha
Women of Aboud
Through this 2016 HOPE Outreach project, Palestinian women are receiving leadership training which will equip them with the tools necessary for becoming agents of change in their own society, as well as provide them with a framework for meeting with Israeli women on equal footing. It will also equip them for organizing and implementing community development projects that help bring about change in the local communities.
Because of cultural bias, often women are restricted in the educational and occupational options available to them. Thus training is essential. It is also unique in that it not only trains women for work in reconciliation activities, but it also brings Palestinian women together in a framework where they can be challenged and grow together on a local level that will equip them to become reconcilers on a national level.
Canada – October 2012
Dr. Munayer visits Canada periodically to share the story of Musalaha’s ministry, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the conflict and more specifically, ways to address reconciliation. He has taped two interviews with Crossroads Communications – one of which you can view below.