Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
Sam and Sara had "made it" as a couple. They had worked through the Christmas tree and Hanukkah menorah dilemma. They had negotiated how to acknowledge Passover and Easter with their respective extended families. They figured out which religious school to send their children to and had committed themselves — together — to share in one faith.
But then, trouble arose in Israel. The Palestinians rejected Israeli offers for sovereignty. And the violence began. It wasn't on Sam and Sara's family radar scope yet. But then the violence intensified — suicide bombings throughout Israel, Israel's incursion into Ramallah, the destruction of the Jenin refugee camp.
And all of a sudden, Sam and Sara realized they were in trouble.
Sara began emailing her friends and family, asking that they call or write the President and ask him to support Israel. She went to their community's rally in solidarity with Israel.
Sam heard about the plight of the Palestinians when attending church with his parents on Sunday. His sister sent him plaintive emails from a friend in the West Bank, describing the destruction and loss of family, the arrests of thousands.
Sam and Sara sat around the table one night with their children. They wanted to discuss Israel, how they — as a family — should feel and act. And for the first time in their marriage, they were on different sides of a growing chasm.
Sam and Sara are not unique. Interfaith families are finding themselves split over Israel — how to feel about Israel, how to talk about Israel, who to support in the ever-evolving conflict.
Following are some questions interfaith families might ask themselves, as well as suggestions for how interfaith families might dialogue about Israel and the current conflict. (When speaking of Israel, we refer here to the territorial borders of the state of Israel, to those territories under Palestinian authority, and to those territories whose sovereignty is disputed between the various parties in the Middle East.)
Interfaith families face many challenges in molding a shared life that respects two faith traditions. One challenge is how each partner looks at the world, and particularly, at Israel. Only with open and heartfelt dialogue and mutual learning can such challenges emerge into ties that strengthen the family bonds.