The tale of the Prodigal Son features in one scenario or other in most religions
so one might be forgiven for suggesting that a rather remarkable turnaround appears to be in evidence in the Church Times. This is a paper beloved by the hierarchy of the Church of England (not to mention the hoi polloi) and one which - sad to say - is often inaccurate on matters Jewish.
However, credit where it is due and their Middle East Correspondent, one Gerald Butt, stated in Friday's issue (April 20th) that:
Within the Palestinian Christian community there is continuing unease at the growing influence of Islam on daily life, which Christians see as pressure on the free practice of their faith.
Which is no doubt why:
Many Palestinian Christians have decided to start new lives away from what they regard as the oppressive atmosphere in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Talk about understatement! However, he then gives a concrete example of this 'oppressive atmosphere':
At times, the pressure is physical as well as psychological. Last week, for example, a shop in the Gaza Strip specialising in Christian literature was bombed. No one was hurt. Two internet cafes were also bombed.
Dear Gerald, you are getting there. However, 'oppressive atmosphere' is what I would call the weather today, you know, the sharav conditions which encourage you to drink loads of water.
I would call the Palestinian Christian suffering something else.
But I'm glad that you now seem to agree with the conclusions of the German Ambassador here, who made similar comments at a recent Haifa University meeting, based on his extensive experience of the Christian communities in Israel and the Palestinian areas.
However, the St. George's Day piece on p. 10 of the same paper is more puzzling. Who on earth does the Revd Garth Hewitt, apparently 'a Canon of the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem' mean when he refers to 'the indigenous community of Palestine', especially as the tenor of his article implies that the Jews arrived here last and not first.
There is a passage in the New Testament about the first being last and the last being first, but I don't really want to go into that now. For those who are interested, I believe you can find it in Matthew: 19.30
All in all, therefore, it appears that we cannot let the Church Times off the hook quite yet. But let us, nevertheless, rejoice and be thankful for small mercies. And, on this very happy day in the Jewish calendar, we should celebrate the fact that Gerald Butt seems to be seeing the light.
And long may it last!