Israel. Palestine. These two words hold such significance in my life now. Words that I used to hear on the news and had my own assumptions about, words that meant very little to me, words that confirmed my ignorance to what is really going on. Now when I see these two words my heart aches, my mind is overwhelmed, and my eyes have a hard time staying dry. My world has changed drastically due to the beauty I have seen in one of the most intense conflicts this world has ever seen.
Upon arrival, after 17 hours of travel, all I wanted to do was set foot in the streets of Jerusalem. I love to experience the diversity in cultures. My senses go to work when I immerse myself into a culture. I hear the beautiful languages that seamlessly flow from the lips of the people surrounding me, languages fascinate me. I take in the smells that force their way into your nose and literally explode with fullness and richness, it grabs my attention every time. We dropped off our suitcases in our first of three hotels that we would call home for the next 10 days. I was anxious to go out and let my senses take over. My dear friend, and roomie, and I went off into the night and explored, jet lag had nothing on us, until our heads hit the pillow that night.
First stop, chicken shawarma! I was prepared to eat a lot of hummus, shawarmas, and falafels that week. The first friend we made was a lively and chatty guy sitting outside of the shawarma joint, eager to invite us in to taste the delightfulness of his food! Ericka and I looked at each other and smiled. It didn’t take much convincing for us. It was the best chicken shawarma I have ever had. We took it to go (typical Americans that wanted to do a million things all at once), little did we know its not common to walk around while eating food. It wasn’t rude or anything, they just knew we were foreigners. I giggled at this the next day when I learned its pretty uncommon to walk and eat, all part of learning a culture right? As we walked down the market street in Old City Jerusalem, warm chicken shawarma in hand, my heart began to break into small pieces so it could be shared and left in all the places we walked. We received many “Bon Appétit!” as they smiled at us eating, walking, and talking, clearly we were enjoying ourselves, which I believe they loved to see.
That night I realized I had no expectations for this journey, but I knew it was going to be everything I wanted it to be…and it was. It really was. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam reign heavily in the city of Jerusalem, what’s fascinating, which I am sure most of you know, is that these three religions have so much in common, the biggest being we all have the same God. So why on earth can’t we all get along? The answer is a lot more complex than I ever imagined and I will do my best to unravel this in the blogs to come. We met with the most beautiful and significant Israeli and Palestinian men and women who have chosen a voice of peace in this divided country. They have chosen to be instruments of peace and to see their enemies as their brothers and sisters.
My prayer is that I will do them justice in sharing their stories so that we may SEE the beauty in what it means to live in peace with our enemies and those who are different than us. What will it take to look at our enemies and only see our brother and sister? We have to get better at listening and immersing ourselves into the two narratives, we will deconstruct if we don’t. We have to listen to the Trump follower, we have to understand the Clinton fan, we have to hear the voice of the Muslim woman, we have to experience the words of the Jewish man, we have to listen and understand those who are different from us, otherwise we will never know who Jesus is.
You cannot deny the story of someone else – there is never one story.Dahlia (Israeli Jew)
I think our westernized culture has put such significance in spending time with God in our “quiet times,” now don’t get me wrong, I love my quiet time with God and its important, but if that is all we do to seek God’s heart than we are seriously missing the bigger picture. I saw God in a whole new light while in Israel/Palestine. I didn’t experience Him in the holy sites or in my quiet time, I saw what it means to be like Jesus in people that did not even mention His name. I saw God’s heart in the people who look, think, believe, and act differently than I do. As I write this, my eyes well up in anguish for my brothers and sisters over seas that wake up everyday facing the pain, the struggle, and the heart ache, but responding with nothing other than pure and divine peace and love for their oppressors. Join me on this journey as I begin to share the intensity of the Israel/Palestine conflict and more importantly the stories of Dahlia, Roni & Heba, Leil, Sami, Husam, Amal, Manar & Milad, Moira, Rami, Michael, Ahmed, Madees, and the people at Aida Refugee Camp. We do a pretty good job of silencing voices, but I pray I will begin to do the opposite and create a space for voices to be heard so we can begin to understand God’s heart for women, peace, His people, and the two narratives. These voices will rock and shake up the world you thought you knew.
Shalom. Salem. Peace be with you.
For more information on the incredible organization that lead this trip, visit The Global Immersion Project