Palestine: Jesus' Broken Heart


Today is Good Friday, the day on which Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. Also today, Deir Yassin, the site of probably the most important event in modern Palestinian history, stands unnamed and unmarked and in clear sight of the most famous Holocaust memorial in the world.
We are now also at the start of the Jewish Passover commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, which Jews often refer to as zeman cherutenu: “The Season of our Freedom”. It is the word cherutenu, particularly the suffix enu“our”, which calls for examination, Because, if for Jews, Pesach is the season of their freedom, celebrating their liberation from slavery and the beginning of their self-consciousness as a people, what about others’ freedom, celebrating others’ liberation from bondage and others’ identity as a people?
Soon it will be April 9th, Deir Yassin Day. April 9th, is also the day when, in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in Flossenburg concentration camp. What would Bonhoeffer, who spoke up for Jews when so few others did, have made of the massacre of Deir Yassin and its proximity to Yad Vashem? At our 2003 London commemoration Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, speaking of Bonhoeffer, offered an answer:  “I have no doubt that Deir Yassin, in all its horror and with its ironic proximity to Yad Vashem, would have broken the heart of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”
A series of events separated by time but bound together by meaning: A Jewish narrative of liberation three thousand years ago, the death of a Palestinian Jew two thousand years ago, the death of a German Christian seventy-three years ago and the massacre of over one hundred Palestinian men, women and children seventy years ago.
There was probably no Deir Yassin at the time of the crucifixion and certainly no Yad Vashem, only 1400 metres to the south. The Deir Yassin/Yad Vashem site, though high up, is over three kilometres from where Jesus died, so we are unable to indulge in any fanciful notions that he was able to see the village, certainly not with his earthly eyes. But that’s not the point. Deir Yassin may be some distance from Calvary but it is no distance at all from Yad Vashem; and the massacre at Deir Yassin may have occurred a very long time after the Exodus, but it occurred a very short time after the Holocaust. So we don’t have to be Christians or believers of any kind to know that, as with Bonhoeffer, the sight of this bitterest of ironies would surely have broken Jesus’ heart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *