Our last full day…

I don’t know how it happened, but we have reached the end of our time in Israel/Palestine. Many events and experiences have transpired since being here. We have talked to many individuals and have heard incredible stories.

Israel/Palestine is a land of distinct contradiction. In one camera angle of Bethlehem, one can see Aida refugee camp, a five star hotel, playground, and the separation wall. Children face soldiers defiantly in protests. The Western Wall structurally supports the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its plaza. We have seen Palestinians and Israelis alike in demonstrations.

Much of what one sees here evokes a deep sense of hopelessness. When faced with getting through a checkpoint in Bethlehem late at night, we literally had to step over tens of Palestinians who were waiting until morning when they would be allowed to enter Jerusalem. Both sides possess a litany of grievances against the other. How could conflict be resolved when there is a refusal (by and large) to give up a ‘victim mentality’? This is a land of tear gas and walls.

However, it is also a land of incredible hospitality. I find this to be important because there lies a sign of hope. We have been welcomed in by complete strangers for tea and to play with kids. In our weariness, we were given places to rest. Outside of the gratitude felt for their kindness, why do I find this important?

In the west, eloquent solutions are offered to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here, politicians and citizens alike have shared their terms for a lasting peace. During the past sixty years, accords, treaties, and resolutions have been offered to make amends in an incredible complex situation. Finding a solution on a broad level seems doubtful.

In response, I believe that the every day acts of kindness so evident to our team provide a way forward towards establishing a lasting peace. Whether it is a restauranteur or a shopkeeper, we have been told every day that we are ‘welcome’ in the land.

We are welcome.

Could the reconciliation efforts be refocused to think about peace in terms of “small” instead of “big”? What would it look like if protests were complemented with an invitation to the other side for tea or a home-cooked meal? Is this even possible?

The characters in our documentary represent a hope for the future. This is not say that they have it “all figured out.” Whether through the arts, boycotts, or intentional dialogue, they have found modest ways to express a powerful conviction: when faced with a broken peace process, the only thing to do is move forward. The act of hoping seems like a fool’s errand. However, one is still given a choice to either submit to hopelessness or to commit oneself to live and act faithfully.

Soon, we will be headed home. We will travel on the day in which our country commemorates its independence. My experience in Israel/Palestine has compelled me to be deeply grateful for what I have always assumed to be rightfully mine—freedom.

There are people here who work towards freedom every day. Yet, the Israelis and Palestinians we have talked with work for something more than freedom. They seek an understanding of human dignity even when faced with religious, ethnic, and political differences. Should their societies begin to value these, they will achieve something much greater than an end to political conflict. They will achieve a call to bear all things, hope all things, believe all things, and endure all things. This is Christ’s call to love.

May the peace of the Lord be with you,