“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2 NRSV)
This Psalm states clearly one of the major insights I had on my trip to Israel/Palestine. The land was created by God and belongs to God. The ground we all stand on is Holy Ground.
The conflict in this region is over the land and who the land really belongs to. The land is sacred to the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. My eyes, however, have been opened to the real issues. The way the Israeli government is taking over the land and controlling the movement of the Palestinians is truly unjust.
We listened and spoke to many incredible people on our pilgrimage. One of the women we spoke to was Jean Zaru. She shared with us why it is important to work for peace and justice. She pointed out that both the occupied and the occupier need liberation and that non-violent resistance is not a transfer of power from one group to another. One of the last things she said to us was, “If it is difficult to hear it, it is more difficult to live it.”
I did find that it was difficult to hear some of the stories that were shared. There was the man whose house had been demolished five times and the worst story was about a little boy who happened to be walking on a closed road and was killed. I won’t share the details here, but let’s just say it was horrific.
The bottom line really does come down to the land belonging to God. I am a child of God and this is a privilege for all people.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. …there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26, 28-29)
Luke 2:8-18 tells us the story of the Shepherds in the fields learning about the Savior that was born in Bethlehem. I have an incredible picture of them being in awe at this news. It says, “An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (New Revised Standard Version)
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made know to us.” (NRSV)
Yesterday we traveled to Bethlehem and the glory of the Lord shone around us too. We learned about several programs that are working hard to help the people in the area. We went to the YMCA and met the Director. The most important and impressive point for me was that they are trying to help people where they live. Love is the call of their ministry.
We also met with the Dean of Diyar. Diyar is a Lutheran-based, ecumenically-oriented organization serving the whole Palestinian community through unique programs. Much of their goal is to create new job opportunities right here. Again, they are trying to meet the people where they are.
Finally, we went to the Bethlehem University. This was the first university in Palestine and is the only Catholic University. Palestine is under 2% christian and yet the university is 30% christian. This university has been closed many times by the Israeli government, has had rockets fall on one of their building, and yet they continue to serve the people.
In between our meeting times we were able to follow the “star” to the manger. We saw much more than the birthplace of Jesus. We saw three other birthplaces of hope and love. Places that are working to meet the people where they are and to give them a reason to continue on.
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among God’s people.
Greetings from Jerusalem,
As I sit down to write this blog I am experiencing a number of thoughts and feelings. Yesterday we walked from the Mount of Olives down to the Garden of Gethsemane. First of all, it was quite a trek downhill, but mostly it was an emotional trek. To experience what is written in Mark 14:26-50 was so powerful. To see where Jesus told Peter that he would deny him and the place where Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done, where the disciples fell asleep and where the famous kiss happened was almost more than I could take in. We continued on to see many more of the biblical sites throughout the day.
In contrast, today we met with a Jewish man who is working to help rebuild Palestinian houses that have been demolished by the Israeli military under direction of the government and then took a guided tour. On our tour we met with a man whose house had been demolished five times. The only word I can say about how this experience was for me is heart-wrenching.
Yesterday’s focus was on sacred sites and today, Jan and I truly agreed, we experienced the sacred.
I have a number of feelings about traveling so far from home. First of all, I am excited. I have never traveled this far from home so I am really stepping out of my comfort zone, but I have never questioned my participation. I have felt drawn to this trip since I first heard about it. It may not feel real until I step into the airport and onto that first plane.
The greatest fear I have is whether or not I am physically able to keep up and do the trip. I believe that my excitement and determination will take me a long way.
My purpose in participating in this trip is to see and experience a part of the world I have never been. I am looking forward to talking with the people and learning about their history. I am also looking forward to seeing the Holy places and historic sites.
I am hoping to gain a deeper, first hand understanding of the conflict in this region and the history of the people.
The part of myself I want to bring with is my ability to be present and engaged, my childlike awe and wonder and my compassion and understanding. I would like to leave at home my ego, my self-centered part and any preconceived ideas or prejudices I may have.
What I am hoping to receive from others is acceptance. The ability to see past my faults and my privilege. In turn, I would like to share with them unconditional love and understanding. I want to be open and willing to share my experience and how it is all affecting me emotionally and spiritually.