Those pesky religious details in Palestinian-Israel conflict

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I’m no expert on the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

In fact, I’m typing this post with trepidation — hoping not to say something entirely stupid (yes, that’s a weekend softball for all my snarky friends).

But seriously, I offer the above caveat before critiquing a front-page story in today’s Houston Chronicle on dueling rallies by thousands of demonstrators:

Westheimer was the dividing line Friday as the Palestinian-Israel conflict played out in feuding but peaceful demonstrations on a busy Houston intersection near the Galleria usually populated with shoppers.

In the pro-Palestine rally, about 2,000 people seen lining both sides of Post Oak had the largest and loudest presence with chant leaders on bullhorns proclaiming: “Free, free Palestine, occupation is a crime.”

Hundreds of demonstrators on the other side, closer to the Galleria, waved blue and white Israeli flags and were flanked by a large banner that declared: “We fight Islamic terror.”

The Chronicle story is about 700 words — not a lot of space but typical of a daily newspaper report.

But the reporter manages to pack a lot of information into the concise account, quoting an equal number of demonstrators on both sides and including some specific religious details:

The demonstrations occurred on Quds Day, which coincides with the last Friday of Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims worldwide.

Many on the pro-Palestinian side had been abstaining all day from food and drink. Some stood for hours in the heat offering water to others, but without consuming any themselves. At least one man with a spray bottle spritzed women and children with water to offer a little relief.

On the pro-Israel side, the music, chants and speeches were periodically upstaged by the shofar, a ram’s horn with a distinct sound used in Jewish religious services.

I would love to have seen a bit more detail on Ramadan’s role in the protest as well as the meaning of the shofar in the demonstration, but I understand the writer’s space limitation and need to report on police presence, traffic issues and other details important to the Chronicle’s readers.

Overall, this seemed like a fair, balanced treatment of the subject matter. Kudos to the Chronicle.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.


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