It is my third time visiting and each experience has been vastly different. Some of you know my journey, but to recap, in 2012, a year after recovering from cancer surgery and staph infection, I came here with three pastor buddies (Wendy Komori-Stager, Jeannie Kim and Debbie Whaley) to travel and learn the lay of the land. It was part pilgrimage, part luxury, part education and part immersion. Then, just last year, in 2015, I traveled with a tour group led by one of my friends (Debbie Whaley), with the intent of bringing a few friends and my husband, as well as learning more tricks of the trade of leading groups. In the midst of that experience, I discovered that I did not have a lot of interest in leading groups that wanted to solely "walk where Jesus walked." I also was not enamored with leading a group of 30!
So, when my good friend, Will McGarvey, asked if I would lead a Keep Hope Alive olive picking trip, I was game. I have never done that part and it was an opportunity to expand the "resume," learn more about the experiences on the ground, and return to further hone and discover more of what I do not know. That has been the case in spades. For the first part, we have stayed in Nazareth and I have never spent more than a day in the city. We have been to a Druze village, a Palestinian village in the north that was destroyed after 1948 and yesterday, to the school and church at Ibillin, founded by Abuna/Archbishop/Elias Chacour. Today we will get back in our bus and drive to the Dead Sea and Jericho on our way to Beit Sahour. We will start our picking tomorrow, Sunday morning. I'm absolutely certain that I will once again discover by learning to harvest olives how much I do not know. Those of you who know me well know that I do not score so high on the mechanical and physical labor aptitude scale.
I am coming up with fewer and fewer answers, less and less certainty, and more and more empathy for a land and a people that exemplifies so much of the human condition. I am left thinking that we (the royal or universal we) are confounded by the conflict and the intransigence (that is the best word I think), but really what is surprising? Our own political debates should show us that we most often are unmovable and assured of our own opinions, our own rights, and have an incredible ability to justify our own actions. We judge others as being less evolved, less intelligent and ask ourselves how anyone could think like "them." Our country is YOUNG. I no longer think the excuse is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is centuries old, but that human dominance and a desire for power are deep-seated in the human wiring. Like a cycle of abusive parenting, I wonder and pray how the cycle might be broken, and at times in the journey thus far, my emotions have ranged from sad, agitated, impatient, energized, hopeful and utterly discouraged.
I am not always a big scripture quoter, and I do not wish to become preach-y on you, but I am reminded of Paul's letter to the Ephesians 2:11-22 which includes these words:
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.....So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
I pray for me to be more like Christ in breaking down dividing walls...here and at home.
Grace and peace to you all,
P.S. Something has gone awry with my photo files and I am unable to load any of them to the blog. Sorry for giving you a "book" with no pictures.