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Writing Opp: Quakers and the Holy Land

In March 2018 Friends Journal is publishing an issue on religion and politics in the Middle East. We could have gone with a more neutral description of the region than “Holy Land,” but we wanted to indicate that we were interested not only in the political struggles but also in the region’s unique and sometimes volatile mix of spiritual traditions.

Friends aren’t mere spectators here. Ramallah Friends School has been a striking presence in the Palestinian West Bank. When it was founded, Ramallah was part of the Ottoman Empire. The dizzying cast of administrators gives clue to the political turbulence of the region: since the Turks left, the West Bank has been occupied by Britain, Lebanon, and Israel, and it now is part of the Palestinian National Authority. It’s maintained a Quaker identity through all this.

American Friends also have a rich though complicated history with Jews. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets that a kind of nativist anti-Semitism ran through many nineteenth-century Quaker institutions. Quaker scientists made embarrassing contributions to the pseudoscience of eugenics before the Second World War. But Friends have also worked side by side with many Jewish activists in the progressive struggles of the 1960s. And as the Religious Society of Friends expanded to bring in larger numbers of newly convinced Friends, Friends of Jewish background have become an important part of our mix.

We bring these histories and these perspectives to our positions on Israel and Palestine and to our comfortableness with the different manifestations of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian beliefs in the region. How do we approach the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement or Israeli-U.S. politics or the expansion of Jewish settlements or the defamation campaigns of competing interests? How do we follow our leadings as peacemakers without erasing complicated histories? Our formal description of the issue is here:

Israel, Palestine, Ramallah, Gaza, Jerusalem. Even today Quaker controversies center on our relationships in the region the world calls the Holy Land. What is our presence there and what is our witness to the struggles of its peoples? Due December 4, 2017.

We have already received some great submissions, but would love to see more, especially new voices and perspectives from our community. Is there a side of the story you think isn’t being told or heard among Friends? Details on word counts, style, and the submission process can be found on our submissions page.

This is the first post of a new feature, From the Editor’s Desk, that we plan to use to talk about upcoming issues. If you know someone who you think might be a good potential author, please forward this along to them!

Martin Kelley is senior editor of Friends Journal. Email: [email protected]


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