I took several books and bits of work with me on my recent trip by placing them on my iPad, but I also took a print book, of which the publisher kindly sent me a free review copy: Melanie A. May’s Jerusalem Testament: Palestinian Christians Speak, 1988-2008 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).
It is perhaps more appropriate to think of May as the volume’s editor rather than author. She provides introductory and concluding thoughts as well as other explanatory comments along the way. But the book’s contents are dominated by the text of joint statements offered by the heads of churches in the Holy Land over the course of two decades. While some of these declarations are easy to find (Richard Hall recently linked to the text of The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, an issue illustrated recently in a CNN article about Evangelical Christian tourism to Israeli settlements), a great many of the statements were issued in print, and had to be physically found and in some cases reconstructed in order for it to be possible to include them in this volume.
Taken together, these statements offer Christians around the globe an insight into the perspective of the Christians who actually live in the Holy Land. Although Israel holds a special place for most Christians, even if for different reasons, the vast majority of us are unaware of issues such as how settlements affect Christians in the Palestinian territories, vandalism of archaeological and historical sites, closure of universities and other important institutions, and a range of other experiences and occurrences that presumably ought to shape the awareness of those whose own countries’ involvement affects the situation in the Middle East. It is not surprising that one of the strands that May detects running through the statements she collected is exasperation with the international community (p.141).
Among other things, the leaders of the churches of the Holy Land call for a repudiation of violence by all parties, and emphasize that the way to security is by achieving peace, and the way to achieve peace is through the establishment of justice. The reverse route does not work (p.61, citing Isaiah 32:17).
Anyone with any interest in Israel ought to read this book. I know of no other volume that provides a comparable collection of statements reflecting either the voice of Palestinian Christians, or a united stance on the part of the denominations in question, in the way this book does.