This Saturday morning was the first official Israel/Palestine “learning community” at Willow Creek. We set out 300 chairs, not knowing if people would come, and over 650 showed up. It was a stunning, powerful, fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring three hours.
I sat in the front row and pretty much choked back tears the whole morning.
Lynne Hybels began by sharing a bit of her journey into peacemaking. She read from the beatitudes and framed the whole conversation in terms of being “a common friend” to both sides. There are few people I know who live this out more fully. Lynne finished by gently yet prophetically declaring: “It is possible to be Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine. In fact, I believe this is the only way to be Pro-Peace. And Pro-Jesus.” Amen and amen.
Second, Todd Deatherage (co-founder of Telos Group and friend/mentor to many of us) did the impossible: he presented a dual-narrative history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in 60 minutes. It was brilliant. Like watching a master painter with his canvas. Or like watching Obi Wan explain the force to Luke! Obviously, Todd would be the first to say that he could only give a basic sketch in such a short amount of time – the actual conflict is SO complex – but with God’s grace he attempted to offer an honest story that honors both perspectives. Such a gift. At the end, he shared a few principles for peacemaking…
Finally, we heard from two peacemakers who have lived through the unthinkable. Robi Damelin (Israeli) and Bassam Aramin (Palestinian) both lost children to the conflict. Hearing their stories broke my heart, especially as a father, and yet their commitment to peace blew me away. When tragedy strikes, most people choose to either shut down or take revenge…which only prolongs the conflict. But Robi and Bassam have chosen the way of engagement, non-violence, and reconciliation. A couple quotes…
“Revenge is never an end to the violence, only a new beginning.” (Bassam)
“Without a grassroots movement of reconciliation, there is no hope for peace. There may be a cease-fire, but not peace.” (Robi)
I highly, highly recommend checking out what they’re doing with The Parent’s Circle.
FYI, Willow recorded this whole morning, and they are deciding the best way to make the content available. I’ll keep you posted. You’ll definitely want to see this!
Saturday morning was like pouring jet fuel onto a fire that’s been burning in me for a long time. I want to be a peacemaker. I want to give my life to the things that Jesus gave his life to…although I’m not always sure what to do. But Saturday reminded of a wise mentor’s response to the question “What do you think Jesus would do if he walked into Jerusalem today?”
After hearing the question, the 85 year old man paused for a moment…with a very intense expression…and then whispered quietly…
“If Jesus walked into Jerusalem today, he’d do now what he did then:
care for the poor, speak truth to power, and get himself killed.”