12th June 2023

Recently I went to a choral concert entitled “Three Kings called Charles”. It featured some of the music played at various coronations from Charles I to the present day. Inevitably it featured works by Handel and also Hubert Parry’s anthem “I was glad”, words taken from Psalm 122 including the verse: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Over the many centuries Jerusalem has rarely seen peace. In the Preface to his book Jerusalem, The Biography, Simon Sebag Montefiore wrote “The unending struggle for Jerusalem … ha[s] made this place into a battlefield, in Aldous Huxley’s words the ‘slaughterhouse of the religions’”.  When I went there with a church delegation in 1989 the Intifada was at its height – the seemingly unending confrontation between the Palestinians and the Jews. It still goes on and there seems to be no end in sight.

Usually this is characterised as a contest between Muslims and Jews, but that overlooks the presence in Jerusalem – indeed throughout Israel – of the smaller, but significant, Christian community. When we were there our host was the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem (not ‘of Jerusalem’, recognising that other denominations also have bishops there). So within the Christian community, and indeed the Muslim and Jewish communities too, there are further divisions. What hope is there of peace in such a fractured city? That is why our prayers are needed. There are many other conflict situations that need our prayers. But as we hold up before God the latest conflict in the news, let us not forget to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

David T Roberts