My Palestinian friends, the women and children at the Jalazoune Refugee Camp.
I saw a mutual appreciation of the beauty of the this desert land that these people call home, and of these people whom I now wondrously call family, of the beauty of their customs that they live out in pride.
I saw our mutual anguish over the devastation of domiciles and waterways by war and disrespect, over the devastation of the Palestinians by people full of unresolved trauma and insecurity, over devastation of a culture by the oppressor.
Out hands touched, we shared cardamom coffee, we took iphone photos, and in that brief time I felt the exchange of friendship and female mutuality.
I felt the beginning of friendship, did you my middle eastern friends?
I felt the beginning of a sharing of ideas, of mutual concern for each others’ welfare, of a commitment to the guarding of human rights.
I felt the ending of being uninformed about each other, of being too different from each other to have anything in common, of being strangers to each other.
Our feet walked the same path for a short while, but in that brief span our paths were the same and I felt my understanding surge.
I understood why the Palestinians hold this God-given land sacred, of why they demand to cling to this inheritance and their ways, and why they have tenaciously survived all these centuries.
My political understanding soared regarding the oppression of this nation by the state of Israel and the vagaries of international awareness of the situation.
I did feel God’s presence, though.
I felt God smile at the joy of discovering the same desire to dress attractively, to exercise and eat well, always to establish healthy boundaries; in the happiness of playing tickle with angelic children at summer camp, and hugging and kissing them as I do my own twins.
I felt God cry, witnessing the lack of potable water, free and secure jobs without work permits, parity between taxes paid and utility services received, freedom to drive all roadways and thoroughfares, immediate access to healthcare, normal access to public transportation, proper and full education, living without fear of house demolitions in the middle of the night, witnessing intimidation of young Israeli soldiers at every step of daily life, living without fear that a son is being coerced in prison to become a traitor to his people.
I was bereft when they asked why I could not return the next day.
I saw myself in these women and children’s eyes. I felt the beginning of new acquaintanceship and deeper understanding of pain in the world and gratefulness for my little world of privilege at home. Most importantly, I felt the Holy Spirit in and around me and my circle of expanded relationships. We will remember each other.