For the last eight days, nine American Christians and I traveled all over Israel and Palestine to meet with people and hear their stories. Our agenda was simple: Learn, learn, learn. What is it like to be a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or non-religious Palestinian or Israeli living in the Holy Land today? How does the conflict effect their everyday lives? Do they feel hopeful? What is their perception of America’s role in solving or perpetuating the conflict? How can we join with and support the peace-makers?
Todd Deatherage of The Telos Group masterfully guided our journey.
I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful, heartbreaking, confusing, holy, and complicated it all is. The reality on the ground is much more complex than CNN, Fox, or Al Jazeera can possibly represent, which is why we wanted to learn from as many different kinds of people as possible. Can I introduce you to six of them?
[top left] The first picture is from Shilo, where we shared a delicious bottle of homemade wine with Jewish settlers. (Settlers are Jews who move into Palestinian land and build Jewish neighborhoods there. This is a VERY contentious issue.) We found them to be wonderful hosts, and it was helpful to hear their perspective.
[top right] After visiting the settlement, we drove to Nablus to visit the Belata refugee camp. Of the millions of displaced Palestinian refugees who can no longer return to their homes, 26,500 live in this 1 square km. It is a rough, terrible, dangerous place, and the air was thick with despair.
[mid left] In Jerusalem, we met with Sheikh Ihab to hear a Muslim perspective of the conflict. We especially loved his emphatic reminder that terrorism is incompatible with the teachings of Islam. He said that while “Islam is perfect, Muslims are not”…so please do not judge all of Islam by a few bad Muslims. (Which is exactly how I feel about Christ and Christians!) Helpful and encouraging.
[mid right] In Tel Aviv, we met with a Jewish mother who lost her son to a terrorist sniper’s bullet, and a Palestinian wife who lost her husband to an Israeli army bullet. Absolutely heartbreaking. But out of the pain, they have joined forces with The Parent Circle to link arms, forgive their enemies, and pursue reconciliation. Check out this UNBELIEVABLE video of one of their beautifully provocative acts of peacemaking.
[bottom left] Also in Tel Aviv, we spent an hour with a retired Israeli army general. Since he’s retired, he was free to honestly answer any question we asked him. Wow. We appreciated hearing such a no-nonsense, intelligent, informed perspective of Israeli politics and security. I hope to have even half as much energy when I’m 83!
[bottom right] In Bethlehem, we met with one of my personal heroes: Sami Awad at Holy Land Trust. (You can read my thoughts about him HERE.) He reminded us again that non-violent resistance is the only option. He said “PLEASE don’t just pick a side…but join the peace-loving people on BOTH sides and help us make peace.” He’s the real deal.