We had our normal classes this morning with a special guest speaker this afternoon on Jewish/Catholic relations and Israel/Vatican relations. This turned out to be my favorite speaker that we’ve had so far. This man was born into a Jewish family and grew up as a Jew in Palestine. When he was about 15 he said he “had an encounter with Jesus”. He waited 10 years “to appease [his] parents” and then became Catholic. Four years after becoming Catholic he became a Jesuit and later a priest. He is now the entire scripture department at Bethlehem University. He has an insight into Judaism like no other Christian I’ve ever met. He was able to explain things as an insider both into Judaism and Christianity. Some of the interesting things I learned included how before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 Jews spoke Arabic and lived in harmony with their fellow Muslim and Christian Arabs. Now all the Arab Jews here have been replaced with European Jews. Another speaker told us that more than 30% of the Jews in Israel today are from the United States. Today after the creation of the state of Israel most of the native Arab Jews are in Morocco and many of the Palestinians still live in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. The other great thing about this priest was that he really knows his scripture, from both the Jewish and Christian perspectives. I need to get my blog up to date, so I won’t say any more about this here, but if you’re interested in his reflection on the whole question of “whose land is it?” then check out his soon-to-be-released book, “The Land, The Bible, and History” by David Neuhaus.
P.S. Today is also Armenian Christmas. Merry Christmas, Armenians!