March 23rd, 2013
09:38 AM ET

My Take: The Empathy President gives an empathy speech

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In religious studies courses, professors often try to get their students to see the world through Hindu eyes or to walk a few miles in the shoes of a Confucian. Anthropologists refer to this as cultivating an emic (or insider) perspective. The less fancy name for it is empathy.

Barack Obama is, for better or worse, an empathetic man who has tried for years to see the world through Republican eyes even as he has pleaded for Republicans to walk a few miles in Democratic shoes. As a former community organizer, he knows that you need a little empathy all around to get anything done among people with different world views. Alas, his efforts have met with little success in gridlocked D.C.

This week, Obama took his toolbox of hope, change, trust and empathy to Israel. Addressing a group of Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday, he spoke of Iran and of America’s unwavering support for Israel. He even fended off a heckler, joking, “We actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home.”


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Israel • Jerusalem • Middle East • My Take • Obama • Palestinians • Politics

Journey to Jerusalem and the West Bank
January 26th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: An American Jew finds MLK – and a new understanding – on the West Bank

Editor's note: Arri Eisen, PhD., is professor of pedagogy at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, Department of Biology and Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. Carlton D. Mackey, who took the accompanying photographs, is the director of the Ethics & the Arts Initiative at the Emory University Center for Ethics.

By Arri Eisen, Special to CNN

Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Monday, Barack Obama was inaugurated president for the second time.

This was one of the few glimmers of hope held up by many of the Palestinians I met with at the turn of the year in the West Bank: “Who would have thought in Martin Luther King’s day that you would now have a black president? If that can happen in the U.S., then maybe one day there can be peace here.”

I spent 10 days in Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories on a “journey of reconciliation” my university sponsored, with a dozen other Americans — I the only Jew among them — meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • History • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Middle East • My Take • Palestinians

How American Jews view Israel’s latest Gaza assault
Conflict after conflict, U.S. Jewish groups and citizens have wielded grass-roots political clout to garner American support for Israel.
November 21st, 2012
01:30 PM ET

How American Jews view Israel’s latest Gaza assault

By Joe Sterling, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – The code-red siren blaring in Israel on Tuesday hit close to home for Rabbi Adam Starr.

His wife and daughter were visiting the Jewish state Tuesday, where Israelis have been darting for cover from daily Hamas rocket fire.

Starr breathed easy after he got off the phone with his wife.

"She's in Jerusalem," said Starr, leader of the Young Israel of Toco Hills synagogue in Atlanta. "She called me to tell me she is OK."

But he and others in his congregation and across the country remain anxious over the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Israel • Judaism • Palestinians • United States

May 19th, 2011
02:16 PM ET

My Take: Obama yokes Arab Spring to civil rights movement

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Before President Obama's Arab Spring speech on Thursday, White House officials hinted that the president would focus largely on economic matters. But Obama actually sounded more like a preacher than an economist.

In his “New Beginning” speech at Cairo University in June 2009, Obama spoke respectively and repeatedly of Islam. He began with “Assalaamu alaykum” (“peace be upon you”). He referred to “the holy Quran” five times. And he recalled his own experiences hearing the call to prayer as a boy in Indonesia and working alongside Muslims as a community organizer in Chicago.

Perhaps most importantly, he tried to look like a fair broker between Israel and the Palestinians, calling America’s bond with Israel “unbreakable” while describing the situation of the Palestinian people as “intolerable.”

In Thursday's Cairo 2.0 speech, he promised to show the Muslim world the money, pledging billions in loan relief and loan guarantees to Egypt.


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Islam • Israel • Middle East • Obama • Palestinians • United States

UN says West Bank site a mosque, but Israel disagrees
October 29th, 2010
03:22 PM ET

UN says West Bank site a mosque, but Israel disagrees

A UN agency's decision to identify a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as a mosque has prompted cries of bias and distortion from Israel.

"It displays brazen political bias and stands in total contradiction to the organization's declared purposes of advancing education, science and culture" said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor of a recent statement by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

In a statement released earlier this week regarding a vote of it's executive board of UNESCO said:

"The Palestinian sites of al-Haram, al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law..."

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Houses of worship • Islam • Israel • Middle East • Mosque • Palestinians

About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.