Batya Ungar-Sargon is the opinion editor of The Forward. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post. She is writing a book about unity in America. (May 2019)

Follow Batya Ungar-Sargon on Twitter: @bungarsargon.


A Tale of Two Churches

Pastors Jay Stewart and Derrick Hawkins at The Refuge church, Annapolis, North Carolina, November 2019

It is an enduring fact of American life that church worship remains deeply segregated. It was something that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed, just days before he was assassinated in 1968. As recently as 2012, a survey found that eight in ten American congregants still worship at a place where a single racial group makes up at least 80 percent of the congregation. But in 2016, a very unusual experiment began in North Carolina. Pastor Jay and Pastor Derrick announced that their two churches, one white, the other black, would be merging. Could their model for The Refuge be one that heals our nation, I asked Pastor Derrick. “It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything,” he said. “But it means that we have to embrace and accept and walk in love. That’s what a healed America looks like.” 

A Palestinian in Israeli Military Court: Issa Amro, the Judge, & Me

Palestinian activist Issa Amro arriving for a hearing at the Israeli-run Ofer military court, Betunia, near Ramallah, West Bank, July 9, 2017

With the occupation largely hidden from view, many Israelis bemoan—in good faith, I believe—the lack of a “partner for peace” on the Palestinian side. Held captive by their politicians’ rhetoric and their own reasonable fears about security, what they don’t see is how deeply Israel’s military apparatus is invested in suppressing the very development of a Palestinian civil society that might produce such a partner—an interlocutor like the Palestinian rights campaigner Issa Amro. “I think Israel is afraid of nonviolent activists,” his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, told me. “If a very large number of nonviolent demonstrators would have huge marches like they had in India at the time of Gandhi, I don’t know how Israel would be able to stop that. And then, maybe, it would be a turning point in the occupation.”