Sunday, February 27, 2011

Women's Meeting

Friday I had the opportunity to attend a Musalaha women's event which was excellent.

When I got there, I was met by a very nice Messianic Jewish lady with a New York City accent. After finding out who I am and why I was there, she told me the strategy of the women's program. "We're just friends," she told me definitively. "That's why we come."

The time was much more like a women's meeting at a church than I expected. We spent the first half hour mingling, and it was fun to see the women finding good friends who they hadn't seen since the last event and catching up. The conversation was "How is your new grand-daughter," and "Have you lost weight?" instead of "What do you think about the current political situation." By the time the twenty-five of us sat down around a big horseshoe table I was writing the following in my journal:

Women, because of such common life journeys/concerns may have more natural bridges to reconciliation.

The rest of the meeting worked to confirm that idea.

One woman welcomed the group. "Please give a brief update on how you are and how we can pray for you." Whew, it was cool. Women of many generations opened up about where they are now. Joyous over a new grandchild, weeping over breaking relationships with children or husbands, testimony of God's grace during times of difficulty -- pain, sickness, lost life, new life, joy... seasons of life for every women.

Then we got into smaller groups and went before the Lord and prayed for each other. Three languages lifting to heaven the lives and concerns of our sisters.

After our time of prayer, we gathered again in one group for teaching. Louise taught on the Good Samaritan, expounding on cultural issues at play in the story. The main point that stood out to me was that in Jesus' teaching the answer to the question "who is my neighbor," was essentially another question: "Whose neighbor are you?" It is what we do for them that makes us a neighbor.

We finished with a nice lunch. I felt embraced by the group -- I guess they are accustomed to meeting new women and accepting outsiders. I wrote in my notes:

Praise You, Lord, for Your faithfulness through all life situations. Thank You for other women to walk through life with. Thank You for Your work in all nations, and for bringing us together in purpose and unity because of Jesus! Amen...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This is what I've been learning...

"There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, February 14, 2011


How cool is this?!! My nametag in English, Hebrew, and Arabic!
During our Youth Leadership Training we did some team-
building games. Here we are working out the "human knot"!
Our meeting was on a Friday evening, the time of the beginning 
of the Sabbath. It was so cool to join in this time of thankfulness
to God, and to get such better context for what Jesus was doing
when he initiated the Lord's Supper we celebrate so often as
believers. It was beautiful to break bread with Israeli and
Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ!
Us meeting in an "Area C" location, one of the few places 
in Israel where both Israelis and Palestinians can go.

I have loved my work over the last few weeks. At the office, I've been developing a blog for prayer for the Palestinian church (if you'd like to check my progress, see Pray for the Palestinian Church). It's a really fun project for me on a few levels. I've also done several other smaller projects.

It has also been fantastic to get to attend a few Musalaha events. I have been invited to be part of the youth leadership training we are now doing, and it was wonderful to get to sit with young Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are looking to invest in the next generation. We talked about issues related to reconciliation and it was really interesting to see the process in action. One Palestinian brother shared about some of the hurt he experienced when, while helping with a Christian conference, the speaker spoke harshly about Palestinians as the "enemy."

There is a lot of hurt being done by those who have ideas about this conflict but no relationships here or understanding that they are talking about real people's lives. It was cool to hear the Israeli believers apologize and restate that it was not their opinion being shared in this instance, but the opinion of outsiders.

Friday, we had a meeting to go through curriculum Musalaha has created with some veterans of Musalaha to discuss Justice and Reconciliation, which I found absolutely fantastic. The main point that stuck out to me was that when seeking justice we must prioritize the future as well as the past in order to be effective. How will we live together? How will this affect the next generation? This is very important. We need to ask the questions when something is done in the name of justice about what the consequences of those actions will be.

There is so much to this and we talked through many many interesting issues, but for me that was the most eye-opening and critical part, although it does seem pretty obvious when I think about it now. This is why to build peace we need real justice -- acknowledging the roots of an issue -- but also to work toward reconciliation... so that difficulties will not be perpetuated to future generations.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I realized this week...

That in the last year I have spent over a month in four continents. News from Asia, Africa, North America and Europe: God is at work all over the world. And it is exciting!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


This is where you walk into the checkpoint. Image from here.
I live in Bethlehem, which is part of Palestine, and work in Jerusalem, in Israel. Sometimes, I go to work (which is only a few miles from home) by taking a group taxi to the checkpoint, walking through the checkpoint, and then taking a bus to the office. My experiences going through the "checkpoint" between Palestine and Israel have been some of the most eye-opening and frustrating parts of my move to Bethlehem.

Last week, I got on to my group taxi, confident about crossing over because the day before had been no problem. The process should be simple: go to the checkpoint, pass through, get on bus, get to work. I thought it would take ten or fifteen minutes, and I would probably arrive about five minutes late to work (still working on the timing).

This is very a very orderly version of the line. Image from here.
When I got to the checkpoint, I heard a lot of noise from the area of the security checks. This is never a good sign. It means that things are going slowly, there is backup, and men are upset to be late to their jobs in Jerusalem. I got in line, knowing it would take a while, and proceeded to wait patiently for a half an hour for about 50 people ahead of me to get through. There was only one open line, and any time someone had trouble everyone had to wait.

I was about ten people from the front of the line and talked to a coworker to tell her I’d be late, but expected to be in shortly. About then, with a lot of yelling, pushing, and frenzy around me, I learned that the line we had all been waiting in would be shut down and everyone would have to go through the one which had been closed. It was a shame for those of us at the front of the line, because whoever was closest to the other line would, of course, get there first. Feeling frustrated, I got in line again, at the back (because I’m an American and that is what we are taught is fair from a very very young age). By this time the pre-9am rush had started and the line was growing quickly. Anxiety grew.
See the guard overhead? Image from here.
I joined an English speaker who I’d met the previous week while trying to get through the checkpoint. A guard (a young Israeli woman) with a big gun walked over our heads, casually taking in the scene. After another half-hour or so, the guy I stood with yelled to her, “Open the other line!”

After a few words in her walkie talkie, she motioned that the first line would once again be opened. People madly rushed to get in the front. My friend and I joined them, but my my pushing skills are decidedly sub-par. We made it into the line, me behind him, and he negotiated with our line mates to get me where he was, closer to the front. People are often gracious to foreigners.

We waited for another ten or twenty minutes, hoping that our line would move. We heard beeping from the other line indicating that it was, excruciatingly slowly, letting people through. Finally, the guard looked down to us and indicated that the line we were in was not going to open. After an hour and a half, too bad, get back in the other line.

My friend told me it would be another hour before we got through, based on where we ended up in line. By this time I was bruised, tired, frustrated beyond words, and very tempted to call it a day and just go home. I looked around and reminded myself that many of these men go through the checkpoint every day to get to work to support their families. I shouldn’t be so selfish.

Image from here.
People cut shamelessly in line, every man for himself. Tensions grew. Fights nearly broke out. I was upset with the behavior of the people in line, but even more was upset as I began to think that the whole thing was intentional. There are so many ways the process could be efficient. But why make it efficient? The goal is to keep people out, not make it easy for them to come in. True or not, it felt increasingly intentional as the guards lazily meandered around watching people get more and more upset.

There was a lot of pushing to finally get into the final part of the line which has metal barriers to funnel people. Once I was in, multiple people ducked under the barrier, jumping the line. One man’s anger boiled over, and he began a passionate speech. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” was the clear message. “I can do it too, see?” as he climbed up on the barrier and crossed to the gate, right over my head. Although no one got out of line, I think they did look ashamed by the end of it.

Finally, I got through. After security, you show your papers (passport in my case). I was in line behind a woman with two children who looked to be under two. She cried and pleaded with the guard who told her she couldn’t get through, she didn’t have the right papers. The guy next to me said that she was claiming that her husband is dead, and she needed to go to the hospital or something. She was waved aside and I’m not sure if she ever made it through. I hear that most of the time people are given leniency even without proper papers in such cases.

Finally I got on my bus in Jerusalem and made it to work -- about 2 and a half hours late.

Although thankful for these experiences which, although not the everyday occurrence do give some insight into the feelings of oppression of the Palestinian people, I am very thankful that I am able to go to work with a coworker most days. We drive to Jerusalem through a much easier checkpoint which caters to Jewish settlers in the West Bank so they are not prone to hassle us much because they assume we also are settlers.

Before I sign off I want to mention that this is one experience I had, and how I felt as it happened. There are multiple sides to every story and I don’t intend to make a statement against anyone in this post. Since I live in Palestine, many of my initial experiences have been seen from a Palestinian perspective. I look forward to sharing as I learn more about Israel as well.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one...”

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
- Romans 3:10, 21-22

Note: The pictures in this post were taken from the web to give you an idea of what it looks like, but are not from the day I was there and were not taken from me. For proper credit, see the links.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pictures of the Wall

Here are some pictures of the wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, mentioned in my last post. Stay tuned for a story about when I spent over two hours going through the checkpoint in my next post (hopefully tomorrow).

 This picture is a little more fun... me on the roof outside of my room:-).