Image via RNS/Reuters/Baz Ratner

Peres, who was 93, was the last major surviving founder of Israel, and evolved from a hawkish defender of the Jewish state to a champion of the two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would co-exist in peace.

Religious leaders remember him for reaching out to people he once considered his enemies.

Image via RNS/Michele Chabin

While some European beaches are banning women dressed in “burkinis” and other modest swimwear, and Americans are challenging women’s-only swimming hours at public pools, this Israeli beach has long been a haven for women whose strict religious beliefs, community norms or fears of sexual harassment, among other reasons, make swimming or sunbathing alongside men undesirable, even impossible.

Image via REUTERS / Mike Segar / RNS

The 2016 Democratic National Convention party platform includes much that religious progressives from multiple faith backgrounds might like. Approved July 25, it calls for expanding LGBT rights, combating climate change, and narrowing the income gap. Here are some of the hot-button social proposals.

REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

President Barack Obama with Elie Wiesel in 2009. Photo via REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

Elie Wiesel’s death is inspiring an outpouring of grief and gratitude from leaders in the religious and political worlds, and ordinary people alike.

Image via Michele Chabin / RNS

Stuart Levy, a nurse at a Jerusalem hospital, updates his ward’s work schedule several times a week, with staffers’ vacations, birthdays and more religious holidays than many people know exist.

“We have 18 hospital beds, and on any given day we may have an Orthodox Jew next to a devout Muslim next to a Catholic next to a Druze next to a Russian Orthodox patient,” said Levy, head nurse of the oncology/hematology ward at Hadassah Medical Center-Ein Kerem. “And many of our staff are religiously observant.”

Fred de Sam Lazaro 05-25-2016

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A nearly 900-year-old synagogue recently held its first Sabbath service in decades in one of the diaspora’s farthest flung places: the coastal Indian city of Cochin.

Congregants came from four continents for what could be the last such observance in a region whose once-thriving Jewish communities have mostly migrated to Israel.

Image via REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/RNS

On the eve of her religious denomination’s quadrennial meeting, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Jewish agency heads saying she opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement targeting Israel, which the meeting will consider.

“I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace,” Clinton wrote in a letter May 9 to David Sherman, chair of the Israel Action Network, and Susan K. Stern, vice chair of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Lisa Sharon Harper 05-02-2016
Igor Rozhkov / Shutterstock

The city of Bethlehem.

THE ROAD WAS bumpy—full of deep holes and harrowing possibilities for slippage down a roadside slope. My heart raced as I considered the possible headline back home: Bus tumbles down Israeli slope—50 Americans killed by Palestinians. Yes, that would likely be the headline, but it wouldn’t tell the story.

As our bus rolled through this stretch southwest of Bethlehem, my heart raced as Amal Nassar explained that the area had been declared property of the Israeli state decades ago. Since then, Israel built smooth roads, but we weren’t allowed on them. To the right of our bouncing bus was an adjacent highway reserved for Israelis—Palestinians are restricted from driving on these Israeli highways, relegated to the old dirt roads.

Our bus wound around sharp corners, up a hill until it came to a stop. There didn’t seem to be any building structures in sight so I wondered why we’d stopped. Nassar explained that the Israeli government had set large boulders in the middle of the road to block traffic from reaching her family’s farm, so we would have to hike the rest of the way.

We stepped off the bus and onto a dirt road strewn with rocks and trash—old tires, plastic bags, plastic bottles. When the Israeli government claimed the land, it ceased basic services such as trash pick-up, electricity, and running water to Palestinians in the area. It was an effort to make life so difficult that the Palestinians would choose to leave—in modern human rights terms, the world calls this ethnic cleansing. Nassar explained that many families have chosen to leave. Once they are gone for three years, the Israeli government claims that their property has been abandoned and that the state then has legal grounds to claim the power of eminent domain over the land.

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The largest gathering of Muslim leaders in the world kicks off a five-day conference that will call for a new peace process to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other weighty issues at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit include combatting extremism within Muslim nations, countering Islamophobia in the rest of the world, and protecting the Rohingya — a group of Muslims suffering persecution in Myanmar.


For Immediate Release:        

April 4, 2016                          


Michael Mershon / Sojourners

Richelle Hollingshead / RLC


Rabbi Rachel Mikva 03-18-2016

Sometimes it takes a friend to tell you that you’re an idiot. Actually, Anat was kinder than that — in keeping with rabbinic teaching that reproof needs to be done for the benefit of the admonished rather than the admonisher (which is harder than it seems, given the feel-good buzz of self-righteousness).

Jeff Chu 03-11-2016

Image via Jeff Chu.

I weaved my way past, trying to find the right angle. All I wanted was to get a good look at the image of Christ Pantocrator — that is, Almighty — that crowns the inside of the dome at the center of the church. But there were too many walls and too many obstructions. No matter where I stood, every view was partly blocked. No matter what I did, I could never quite see all of Jesus.

Image via RNS.

“Mostly what we find is a huge gulf between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews,” said Neha Sahgal, a senior researcher on the survey, “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society,” which is based on face-to-face interviews of more than 5,600 Israeli Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Secular Israeli Jews, for example, say they are more uncomfortable with the idea of their child marrying a very Orthodox Jew than a Christian, the report shows.

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“Contaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’ that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God … the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner,” read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, at a Georgetown University conference Feb. 29 on anti-Semitism in Europe.

“Now, if I told you that these were the words of a Hamas leader, or any number of Middle Eastern political officials, or movement leaders, you wouldn’t be very surprised,” he said.

“But these were the words of Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize-winning author, as published in 2002 in El Pais, the paper of record of Spain.”


Kim Hjelmgaard 01-27-2016

Auschwitz-Birkenau near Oswiecim, Poland. Image via REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/RNS

Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the date the United Nations has chosen to commemorate victims of the Holocaust during World War II. Six million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime, along with 5 million non-Jews who were killed. The anniversary, marked each year since 2005, falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland by the Russian army in 1945. One million people died there.

Robert Williamson 01-19-2016

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On Dec. 28, just before New Year’s Day, a Cleveland grand jury declined to indict the officers who killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who had been playing with a toy gun in a park near his home. For many, the news resounded as yet one more tragic refrain in the long litany of our nation’s utter disregard for Black lives. Extinguished in the innocence of childhood, without even a second thought.

Image via REUTERS / Charles Platiau / RNS

As France marks the anniversary of the terrorist shootings that targeted a kosher supermarket and a satirical weekly, a new report warns anti-Semitism here continues to rise, taking a myriad of underreported forms.

“Violence targeting Jews and Jewish sites has led to a heightened sense of insecurity, and an increasing number of Jews are relocating in or outside France for security reasons,” U.S. advocacy group Human Rights First wrote in a report published Jan. 7.

Image via Michele Chabin / RNS

The Palestinian Authority has asked municipalities to tone down their public Christmas celebrations this year amid escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Hana Amireh, who heads a government committee on churches in the West Bank, confirmed the Palestinian Authority is requesting “a certain decrease” in festivities following the deaths of dozens of Palestinians since mid-September. The majority of them were killed during clashes with Israeli forces or carrying out terrorist attacks, according to the Israeli government.

Amireh said the government has asked the municipality of Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born and where official Palestinian celebrations of Christmas take place, not to set off holiday fireworks this year and to limit the festive lights and decorations that traditionally adorn the town to two main streets.

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The head of a national Republican Jewish activist group predicted on Nov. 10 that dissatisfaction with the Iran nuclear deal will increase the GOP's share of the Jewish vote in 2016. His Democratic counterpart argued that Jewish Americans, who overwhelmingly vote for his party, are divided over the deal and prioritize other issues.

The debate took place at one of the largest annual gatherings of Jewish activists in the world — the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America — just hours before an address to the group by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I say it with a broken heart and a lot of sadness,” said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks on what he alleged is flagging Democratic support for Israel in recent years.

WALTER BRUEGGEMANN is a leading authority of Old Testament interpretation and author of more than two dozen books. In this book he seeks to make a contribution to the application of biblical concepts of God’s chosen people and the promised land in the light of the contemporary Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This book is slim, focused on the social justice issues and the relevance of key readings of Hebrew scripture to this conflict. It is written to be a manual for group discussions, particularly by Christian groups in churches. Brueggemann focuses on three main themes and their roots in scripture: the meaning of the “God’s chosen people,” the donation of the “holy land” to the “chosen people,” and the relation of Zion and Israel.

The “chosen people” are chosen by God as an arbitrary decision, writes Brueggemann, not based on any superiority of that people to others, but only on God’s love for them. It is an unconditional decision by God to choose this people with whom to have a special relationship. Yet this idea evolves in Israel’s history. There develops the theme that the people of Israel will be held especially accountable by God because of this relationship and punished for their iniquities (Amos 3:2). Isaiah suggests that, in a redemptive future, Egypt and Assyria will be chosen alongside Israel as a “blessing in the midst of the earth” (Isaiah 19:24-25).

Later heirs of the biblical tradition reinterpreted the idea of the chosen people to apply to themselves. Some in the Christian church saw itself as inheriting the status of God’s chosen people. Some in the United States regard this nation as a chosen people, occupying a new “promised land.”