No god but God

All of us here have been shaken by the news coming out of the Jordanian capital of suicide bombings in three hotels. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility, saying that the attack was meant to target the "Jews and Crusaders." This is the kind of rhetoric which feeds the assumption that we are facing what Bernard Lewis has famously phrased a "clash of civilizations," a massive conflagration between East and West. Yet the deadliest of the attacks hit the heart of a Muslim wedding party. The next day, at the same hotel a Christian wedding party took place. It seems to me that this points to a struggle not between East and West, but within Islam itself. Scholars like Reza Aslan (e.g. his book No god but God) and Mohammad Sammak see the dividing lines between those seeking radicalization and those seeking modernization. My own experience with the Palestinian Islamic community underscores this analysis.

Half of those killed in the wedding party were Palestinians from Jenin. In Jerusalem, all news seems to be local news.

I did take the opportunity yesterday to walk the ramparts of the Old City walls, a walk that was closed during my time here "due to security reasons." It was an amazing walk that takes you half way around the city. On the left, you see the life outside the walls (and the architectural beauty that the walls themselves are). On the right, you see life within the Old City: houses, churches, playgrounds, settlements, schools, workshops. It is a helpful reminder that Jerusalem is not just a symbol, not just an idea. It is, first and foremost, a place where people live. It is for the sake of these people that we should seek peace.