Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best book I've ever read about the Mideast

[Note: This is a copy of my Amazon Vine review here.]

In preparing for a study trip to Israel and Jordan with Willow Creek church's "Dr. B." in 2007 our group was assigned to read two books about the area and its issues. One (Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour) was excellent; the other (mercifully nameless here) was awful. Ever since, I've sought a better book to cover the same ground as that second book.

Tea with Hezbollah is that vastly better book. In it, two Christians set out to have tea with spiritual leaders throughout the Mideast and discuss with them Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. It's a crazy idea - reminding me of the title of P.J. O'Rourke's book "Holidays in Hell." Yet somehow, it happens, the trip is described in very interesting detail, and in each meeting along the way each response to the story is faithfully recorded.

I've not been to all the places mentioned, but have been to some of them, and heartily agree with the authors about the importance and difficulty of that particular teaching of Jesus, both 2,000 years ago and today.

I was amazed how often the authors' feelings about a particular place or group exactly matched my own from our trip. I was also impressed by most of the responses - deeply in two cases.

The book also includes an excellent story within a story, a modern equivalent of Jesus' story that adds much to the book.

Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or None of the Above (carefully listed in alphabetical order), this book is fair and honest and well worth reading. It does not sugar-coat or ignore tough issues, but keeps the focus tightly on Jesus' parable, and what that means today.

One other personal note: I now feel I better understand one particular group a recent DNA test reports is among my ancestors.

Highly recommended!