On February 23, 2023, Vanguard University’s Departments of Theology and History and Political Science hosted a screening of the documentary Hope in the Holy Land. This documentary captures the journey of an Orange County Christian named Tom Morehead (director and executive producer) as he travels to Israel and Palestine in an attempt to understand different facets of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On his journey, he investigates the perspectives of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in both Palestine and Israel.
The screening took place that evening in a movie-premiere style: a red carpet trailing into Seymour Sanctuary showed guests where to enter, and guests had their pictures taken by VU Voice photographers prior to taking their seats. Guests of all sorts were present at the premiere, including Vanguard faculty and students, as well as people invited by Tom Morehead himself.
For the most part, guests were excited to learn from the documentary. Prior to the film being shown, Vanguard undergraduate student Emily Visscher said that the screening was “a cool opportunity. I don’t know much about it [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] and would like to learn more. I can’t wait!”
Attendees had a variety of perspectives on the way that Hope in the Holy Land portrayed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Vanguard student Amberly Gourlay said, “I thought the film was very helpful in understanding…Sharing actual people’s perspective is so important in understanding the truth when media is biased.” Dr. Sandra Morgan, professor from the Department of Theology and director of The Global Center for Women and Justice, said, “My favorite line in the film was the statement that both Ishmael and Isaac [Palestine and Israel] were Abraham’s sons. The Orange County surfer perspective is a uniquely Western affluent Christian viewpoint that tested my experience living and working in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.”
Overall, while the film was helpful for many in understanding the issue, there remained questions regarding whether the film centered too much on Morehead’s personal journey given the subject at hand, as well as the questions of “now what?” and “how can we help practically?” Vanguard student Abigail Pettit asked, “When it was showing everyone [Palestine and Israel] fighting each other…in the context of Imago Dei, how can we best love everyone?”
After the screening, guests got to witness a Q&A session with Tom Morehead, where Vanguard faculty members Dr. Marc Groenbech-Dam, Dr. Alicia Jackson, Dr. Norlan Hernandez, Dr. Eunice Kang, and Dr. Michael Jimenez asked Morehead various questions about the making of his documentary. At the Q&A, when asked the question “how can we help?”, Morehead said “Speak out against BDS [a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel] and do not support it, it harms both sides. Pray, pray, pray, especially for the Arabic Christians, that they would gain a heart for His chosen people.”
With all the fighting and division between Israel and Palestine, it is essential that we remember that both sides are deeply loved by God, and that under Christ, both sides are the children of God. Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”