mai abdul rahman June 9, 2015
The Garden of Gethsemane lies on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, in East Jerusalem. According to Palestinian and Biblical accounts the Mount of Olives was where Jesus prayed and rested in the company of his disciples under the shade of its trees. “Matthew 26: 36-38: Then cometh Jesus with them to a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, “Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder.” It is also where Jesus was arrested by the temple guards.
During Jesus’s time the Mount of Olives was full of olive trees. Today, Palestinians still tend and press the olive oil of the remaining eight olive trees that botanists have verified are 3,000 years old.
So how would Jesus act and respond to Israel’s plans to build a military college on the Mount of Olives?
While the prevailing understanding and popular images of Jesus describe and portray him as serenely quiet, adored by many, and soft-spoken that view is not shared by Palestinians. The Palestinian perspective of Jesus is much more complex and nuanced. The Palestinian Jesus is a mix of grace compassion, justice, love, and kindness- a fearless man who was not afraid to judge and question unjust leaders and unfair laws. In short, he was not bound by political correctness or restricted to the the social constructs and expectations of the rulers of his time.
Palestinians view Jesus as real, authentic, keen and aware of the political and social environment that surrounded him. For them he was a man with a radical mission- a tender man who stood against the officials of his time demanding an end to unjust and oppressive laws.
Palestinians are certain that if his presence graces us today he would peacefully fight along their side and join them at their weekly non-violent protests and daily peaceful marches. For Palestinians Jesus is as relevant today as he was when he was a roaming shepherd willing to lay his life for his flock. Simply stated Palestinians assume that Jesus will join their call to stop the destruction of their cherished olive trees.
Jesus was a rebel who bucked the system. In fact, by every historical and biblical account Jesus was preaching subversive ideas that questioned the moral and legal authority of the rulers of his time. He preached and called for social justice and the ending of oppression. He advocated for the rights of the meek, poor, and powerless. But as was the case then it is still true today- one’s man’s rebel is another man’s seditious provocateur that needs to be muzzled.
When Jesus was crucified the Romans chose to insult his disciples and followers by crucifying him next to two bandits and thieves. Palestinians personal experience suggests otherwise- they know that Jesus was crucified next to rebel agitators who paid the ultimate price for advocating for the rights of of those without the means to fight the dominant power.
Today as it was then, Palestinians who speak their truth honestly are labeled, harassed, and arrested. Jesus whom all Palestinians- Christian and Muslim- revere is alive in Palestine. For decades Palestinians have carried his message and shouldered his cross patiently- but for how long?