Welcome to the Yale Divinity School Lenten Study, Sacred Land: Common Ground?

Welcome to the Yale Divinity School Lenten Study, Sacred Land: Common Ground?  led by Dean Harold Attridge. This year’s Lenten study blog is a companion resource to a Yale Divinity School Travel Seminar to Israel-Palestine, March 4-17.  Though only 34 people will travel together to participate in the study, it is our hope that through this blog site others will be able to participate and "virtually" accompany the travelers.  

Each weekday during Lent, study material will be posted enabling others to engage in study and resources that seminar participants are following.  Over the coming weeks, the study will engage in exploration of historical as well as contemporary aspects of the faiths and people of the “Holy Land.”  The online blog/study program will include:

  • Feb. 22-24            Introduction and Resources
  • Feb. 27-March 2    Histories of the Holy Land
  • March 5-9             Three faiths/Interfaith
  • March 12-16          Understanding Israel/Palestine
  • March 19-23          Palestinian Christians and Churches of the Middle East
  • March 26-30          Jerusalem
  • April 2-6                (Holy Week) Peace is Possible?


 The program will blend study of ancient and contemporary times to develop a richer understanding of both realities and their interconnectedness.  Portions of the study will include video from meetings and encounters in the Holy Land.  The seminar will explore history as well as the contemporary realities of life for Palestinians and Israelis today.    During each day's travels, we will share experiences by posting commentary, photos and video clips.  Later in Lent, upon our return, we will share longer video segments of interviews, panels, and meetings from the seminar.  Collectively, it is our hope that others will travel with us via the internet, sharing in this Lenten commitment to learn together something of the experience of the "Holy Land" today.

Perhaps the greatest challenge as we begin our seminar is where to begin.  There are so many ways to tell the story of this ancient land and the peoples who reside there today.  Who you are, where you live, your religious identity, and your ethnic identity -- all of these factors and more contribute to a wide range of different and often competing narratives. As we prepare to travel together, we will read a variety of sources and begin to sort through the divergent claims and perspectives.   In the context of Israel/Palestine today, even (and perhaps especially) archeology has become politicized.  How we interpret the past can have very real consequences for the present.

For those who want to read beyond the blog site, for starters, there are many excellent resources we could recommend, but here are a few that seminar participants are reading:  

  • In the Land of Israel  by Amos Oz   (In the early 1980s, Israel's celebrated novelist Amos Oz traveled throughout his country, recording its history as spoken by its inhabitants. This timeless, astonishingly relevant work has been updated.)
  • Bethlehem Besieged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble  by Mitri Raheb (Raheb is the pastor of Christmas Church.  A Palestinian Lutheran congregation here presents compelling personal stories of desperation and hope in the midst of lethal conflict, bringing the Palestinian/Israeli conflict up close and personal.)
  • Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths by Karen Armstrong (A popular/accessible volume, this book unfolds a complex story of spiritual upheaval and political transformation--from King David's capital to an administrative outpost of the Roman Empire, from the cosmopolitan city sanctified by Christ to the spiritual center conquered and glorified by Muslims, from the gleaming prize of European Crusaders to the bullet-ridden symbol of the present-day Arab-Israeli conflict.)
  • Who Are the Christians in the Middle East (second edition) by Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey (A helpful resource, the second edition was published by Eerdmans in 2010 in cooperation with the Middle East Council of Churches)   
  • The Holy Land: A Historical Geography from the Persian to the Arab Conquest 536 B.C. to A.D. 640 by Michael Avi-Yonah. (Written by a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this is a standard reference work on historical geography.)  
  • A History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 BD – AD 135) by Emil Schuerer.  (This nineteenth-century classic in five volumes was updated in the late twentieth century by Oxford historians Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar. It, too, is a standard reference work for the history of the period.)
  • The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P. (Written by a Dominican priest and New Testament scholar who has long taught at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, this is a handy guide to all the major archeological sites in Israel and the territories.)     

Tomorrow we will post some suggestions for following the news from Israel / Palestine.  Welcome to this Lenten journey!