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Book Corner Feb 2006

Christians and a Land Called Holy
How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, and Hope

by Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith
Augsburg Fortress, 2006

Reviewed by Dr. S. K. Hedahl

             As someone just returned from Palestine/Israel in the last few months, this reviewer can attest to the accurate insights, clear statistic analyses and balanced reporting which the two authors present in their book.   Both Lutz and Smith view the problems in the "Holy Land" through theological lenses.

            The authors alternate their voices in chapters which detail the history, politics, faith disputes and ways the readers can involve themselves thoughtfully in forms of advocacy for peace in the Middle East.   They use maps and photos to support their claims. In defining the issues in that part of the world, the emphasis is always slanted towards peace and reconciliation.

            In both the book's introduction and first chapter, Lutz describes "What's So Special about this Space?"  He draws on the Bible, Mediterranean history and an overview of the different religious and political groups in historical and contemporary terms.  The concise description of so many disparate elements leaves the reader clear about the facts, but also more aware of the ambiguities and problems they create.

            Smith authors the second chapter and does an in-depth look at the religious issues, events and people which have created the current problems in Israel/Palestine.  He laments that, "Commentators often remark that North American Christians demonstrate little concern for the city of Jerusalem or the plight of Palestinian Christians." (44)  Smith explains why this is so. He also offers a good summary of the significant movement among Jews, started in nineteenth century Europe, called Zionism:  "a secular ideology that identifies Jews not as a religious community but as an ethnic (racial) group, has been a source of great contention in the Jewish community." (51)  One cannot speak about Palestinian history without a good grasp of the import of this movement on the developments in the Middle East.

            This work is a delight.  Its observations are based on facts and its hopes based on the yearnings of the faithful.  The core of the book's call to the readers for action is stated as: "Paying attention; Praying fervently; Public-policy advocating and Pilgrimage making/offering presence."  (84).  Throughout the work the authors do a good job of looking at the role the Bible plays in defining through the ages how the Holy Land is interpreted today.  Also of excellent help, is the one-page summary of why the ELCA is involved in advocating peace solutions to the Palestinian/Israel conflict (75).

            A truly excellent bibliography, multiple Internet sites, agency listings, statistics and an index of Bible passages quoted, conclude this book.  If you wish to get an up-to-date, accurate, Lutheran/ecumenical perspective on Palestine, and its relationships with Israel, this is the book.  The authors are to be commended for accomplishing so much in these 168 pages!