Walking to Jerusalem by Justin Butcher
Butcher is an astute guide to the exhausting dilemmas that swirl around the three faiths and the two peoples who seek to live together in a piece of land that carries deep significance for all of them
Walking to Jerusalem - Blisters, hope and facts on the ground
By Justin Butcher
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewer: John Rackley
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we do act, in however a small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future”.
A 3400 km walk from central London to Jerusalem over 147 days is hardly a small act. But in the light of the intractable issues burdening the people who live in Israel and the West Bank, the Just Walk could be considered of little consequence.
Yet for Justin Butcher, his numerous companions, the Amos Trust and the Palestinian people for whom they trod the pilgrim routes across Europe it was a great undertaking.
Between July–October 2017 more than a 100 walkers marked the anniversaries of the Balfour Declaration, the 50th year of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories and the tenth year of the blockade of Gaza. They walked to ask the question: when will equal rights exist for all in the so-called Holy Land?
Mountain passes and flower-strewn meadows, vivacious nuns, wary farmers, skilled drivers, old Mercedes cars, numerous coffees, scary border guards, dodgy dealers, hapless refugees, a debate over the relationship of the Incarnation and Justice-making all emerge from Justin Butcher’s record of a labour of love and holy perspiration.
Butcher is an astute guide to the exhausting dilemmas that swirl around the three faiths and the two peoples who seek to live together in a piece of land that carries deep significance for all of them. But isn’t he inevitably biased toward to one side?
Now there’s a question. If you ask that one; you need also to ask. Can you support victims of injustice and not be biased? And what if some of the strongest voices in the text are Israelis and Jews who speak against the policy of the current Israeli regime?
And what if as Butcher himself suggests that due to the Balfour Declaration the UK should be apologising to both Israeli and Palestinian for a deal that created to a significant degree the current situation?
So this book is more than shelf-filler in Waterstone’s travel section. It is an exploration of the spirituality of justice-seeking. It is a parable of how to live with hope when the facts on the ground are grim. It is an encounter with the Beatitude of Jesus who declared that we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. A Beatitude which like all blessings can only be received when we walk together.
John Rackley is a Baptist minister who studied in East Jerusalem where he began his continuing engagement with the issues described in this book