By: Rev. Nathan Allen, Clairemont Lutheran Church/ Iglesia Luterana Clairemont (San Diego, CA)
Peace Not Walls.
This has been a ministry of the ELCA for more than a decade now. People have been consistently working toward peace for many more years than that throughout Palestine and Israel, yet it seems that there is no progress made. In many ways it was emotionally devastating to witness the injustice and tragedy; there is a sense of helplessness in the face of problems that are much bigger than we can grasp.
I am reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament. A righteous man before God, yet faced with terrible suffering, his children all killed, losing absolutely all of his wealth, and finally being covered with sores on his whole body to the point that he could find no comfort, no rest. Job felt that God was unjustly punishing him, while the interpretation of his three friends was that he must have done something evil in order to merit such wrath from God. Job felt tormented by God, tormented by his friends, even his wife told him just to curse God and die.
Through it all Job kept coming back to God, angry yes, confused and hurt, yes; but he kept returning to God expecting more, hoping for justice, calling out in frustration! Where are you God! Why would you do this to me! How could you let this happen! How could you let a 15 year old girl be shot by soldiers, how could people be forced into refugee camps for three generations, why do you let someone get to the point where a suicide bomb becomes an option, how could you let settlers steal land and resources, why don’t you do something about these boys and girls getting locked in prison, why Lord, why have you forsaken these people?
By: Antoine R. Cummins (Forest City, IA)
My recent trip to the Holy land left a distinctively tasteless flavor within my spirit. The sharp and steady sun overhead mirrored, if not amplified, the tense realities on the ground that so many call home; white hot.
This was not my first time to Palestine, but it was the first time that I was able to be fully present and alert; heart properly prepared for the experience. On this recent trip, I traveled with a group consisting of young adults of color from across the ELCA. As I reflect now, I realized that to have been in community with the individuals who made up the group alone was enough to prime my perspective to cope with the all too personal images and stories of injustice and discrimination.
Not only that, but the fact that we were led by two of the most powerful women that I have encountered within our Church provided me with ample space to explore how our communities would begin to heal themselves if only inherited beliefs and limitations made way for reimagining and courage: Rozella White and Karin Brown, no truer embodiment of divine feminine, but that is an entirely different reflection in and of itself.
Starting out as a group of acquaintances we traveled. We listened. We loved. We prayed. We communed. And despite all the stimuli and complexity, we were encouraged to be present with each other and with God. In the profane, we found sacredness and I will be ever thankful for the opportunity.
By: Rev. Tuhina Rasche (San Carlos, CA)
Rev. Tuhina Rasche walking along the separation/security wall in Bethlehem, Palestine.
As a second generation Indian-American woman, I often times struggle with my identity in multiple spaces and how my story is told into these spaces. This is both tragic and comical, as much of my work and ministry deals with the perception of identities within church settings. But identity is extremely complicated; what are the labels with which we use to self-identify, but also, what are the labels that are then placed upon us by outside forces? Who gets to tell our story? As a person who longs for a sense of place in the world, how a story is told and who tells a story matters a great deal to me.
But what happens when your identity is controlled by outside forces that strip away your humanity on a multitude of levels? What happens when the words that define your flesh are taken away from you? When your sense of place becomes literally dislocated and your own home becomes a place of wilderness? What happens when your narrative, the ability to tell your story, is taken away from you?
By: Maya Mineoi (Toledo, OH)
As we prepared to leave Palestine, Rev. Imad Haddad, pastor of Church of Hope in Ramallah, asked us if we would deliver a message of hope or a message of despair to our friends back home. I was struck by his question. I felt the responsibility to convey a message of accountability to the United States of America. Many of the other people we met turned the conversation back to the US. They reminded us that we are complicit in allowing Israeli occupation to continue through allowing human rights and international law violations to go unchecked and by providing defense support to Israel (which ultimately benefits US arms dealers). In addition, my American passport gave me privileged access through the land. It was emotionally draining to see over and over how the Israeli occupation limited Palestinian movement, economic ability and connection to land and to national identity. Although I can’t help but share this part of the equation with people in the States, I will also follow Pr. Haddad’s advice to speak of life and hope in Palestine.
By: Mae Helen Jackson (Chicago, IL)
Writing about an experience that you feel removed from is difficult. Tapping back into those feelings, and having to dig deep to pull yourself out of your current personal tornados… it’s a complicated task.
It is a task that requires me to recall the pain I felt in Hebron. Watching soldiers toy with a young man’s freedom out of boredom, flicking a cigarette at him as if the young man were a bothersome rodent as he begged the soldier to open a recently erected fence; a fence forcing Palestinians to trek far around their community to get to a place a mere two minutes from their housing complexes. It asks that I allow those feelings bubble over again–memories of a country entrenched in a psychological warfare so thick you feel it on your skin. It is anxiety inducing at best.
By: Bahati Mwitula (Chicago, IL)
Bahati standing along the separation/security wall in Bethlehem, Palestine.
When asked about my experience in the Holy Land I say, “the most spiritually, mentally and physically draining experience in my life. And yet, one of the most groundbreaking.”
I have always had an interest in Middle Eastern politics, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Going there opened my eyes to a world I never thought I would experience. Being able to interact with Israelis and Palestinians was eye opening and allowed me to briefly look at life through their lens. There is only so much you can learn from reading publications, watching the news and documentaries, especially considering bias and advancement of personal agendas. From the day I landed to the day I left, I felt various emotions ranging from anger and disappointment to joy and hope. Immersed in the rich yet complex history, I came back wanting to become involved even more.
By: Corey Holmes, PhD Researcher, Howard University
I must admit, I was uninformed regarding the magnitude of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I knew of Yasser Arafat and his commitment to peace in the Middle East, earning him a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. I also understood that Israel was “holy ground” for God’s people and the place where many citizens go to worship and visit holy sites. After visiting Israel for almost two weeks, it is still a very complex place where some form of all sides hold truth. This post is simply thoughts on my experiences while in Israel meeting with Palestinians, visiting holy sites, and listening to views on this conflict.
The remapping of lines to construct borders is nothing new. During 1884-85, the Berlin Conference in the “Scramble for Africa” divided the African continent among 13 European countries, in the quest for civility and a “Christian way of life”. Imperialism and eventually colonialism was established, and currently Africa is starting to feel the effects of elitism and classism among its diverse populations.
Comparably, the first Prime Minister of Israel, David-Ben Gurion, with the blessing of U.S. President Harry Truman, created the independent sovereign state of Israel in May 1948. A few years prior, the United States was faced with a tough decision due to the potential alliance of the Soviet Union (its starkest enemy at the time), with Arab nations who held most of the world’s oil resources. President Truman wanted the U.S. Department of State to conduct talks with both Jews and Arabs to see if a resolution was possible before intervening. In 1946, President Truman created a special cabinet led by Assistant Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Grady, to oversee the region and conduct negotiations with the British who held economic and political interests in Palestine. The U.S. Department of State recommended the creation of a United Nations trusteeship with limits on Jewish immigration, and the division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab provinces, not states. Continue reading