By: Bahati Mwitula (Chicago, IL)
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
We are excited to announce an opportunity specifically designed for young adults of color. In 2013, Peace Not Walls and ELCA Young Adult Ministry created a strategy of engagement for young adults to travel to the Holy Land and connect with the Peace Not Walls Campaign. Phase One was a leadership opportunity designed to train 16 leaders to create and lead trips of their own for other young adults. This effort has allowed over 70 young adults to travel to the Holy Land and engage in Peace Not Walls efforts here in the US!
We are excited to announce that Phase Two has been approved! From now until January 16, 2017, applications are available for young adults of color to apply to be leaders who will be trained, nurtured and supported to lead trips for other young adults of color over the next two years. We recognized that Phase One did not include enough diverse voices and we are committed to increasing the number of young adults who have this type of opportunity.
We will be selecting 16 young adults of color who will engage in travel, training and planning for their own trips. Young adults should be between the ages of 21 and 30. The application is now live! The deadline for all application materials is January 16, 2017.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please fill out the form on the ‘Contact Us‘ page.
One of Laura’s favorite quotes can be paraphrased like this, when we draw a line between us and them in the sand, God stands with them. So much of the ministry of Jesus was centered around those who did not fit within the bounds of mainstream society. He cared for women, lepers, tax collectors, foreigners (including Roman occupiers), and many others. It is unusual to be in a place where physical walls, razor wire, checkpoints, heavily armed soldiers, segregated roads, ethnicity specific identification cards, etc. cause this “othering” to be so visible.
On Wednesday, our group visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum and memorial. Yad Vashem is a place which always stirs my emotions. I feel great anger, shame, and melancholy that this disaster was allowed to occur. It is also distressing to me the extent to which many people of faith were complicit in the Holocaust (and are complicit in the modern occupation and dehumanization of Palestine and the Palestinians). Disturbing are the many parallels which may be drawn from the content of the museum to current events, both in the Holy Land and in some prevalent political ideologies in the United States.
I am disheartened by humanity’s unwavering ability to divide itself into groups of us and groups of them. I pray that someday, we will be able to recognize, as Jesus did, that they- Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, etc. are no different from “us”.
My Peace Not Walls experience has been incredible. I have enjoyed learning from and listening to the stories and perspectives of all the people that I have met on this trip. My group was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share a meal with the Palestinian family that hosted my group leader during her of service with YAGM. This family welcomed our group as if we were their immediate family members . Throughout the meal we shared stories, food, and even more laughs as our friendship grew. This is one example of the hospitality that I have seen so far in the Holy Land. However, I believe that this level of care for others is common place for many people here. As we continue in our trip, I cannot wait to continue learning more about Palestine and Israel from the people that live here.
This is Ellie and I’m going to be talking about what we did on Monday of our trip. After a day full of lots of food and good conversation, we took a different path and went on a big tourist adventure! We started out the morning by renting a car and Laura fearlessly drove us through the crazy streets of Jerusalem. We got lost one or two (or three) times but we eventually found our way out of the city in the right direction. Our first stop was the ancient fortress of Masala. It was here that King Harod had a fortress and, in 70 or so A.D, the Jewish people that were inhabiting the plateau were overthrown by the Romans. It was very interesting to be there, taking in more of the Jewish narrative and exploring old ruins. After a very hot couple hours, we got back in the car and drove to Ein Gedi, a nature reserve. We weren’t sure what to expect, but after hiking about a mile we came across the most beautiful waterfalls. The pure beauty of nature has always been something I have loved and the waterfalls in the middle of the Judean Desert were no exception. After our hike we found a beach to take a dip in the Dead Sea. It was very salty and very very hot! We floated for a while and then headed back to Jerusalem to rest.
Today was more of a tourist day compared to the others we have had. However, I never stopped looking at today through both Israeli and Palestinian eyes. This country is absolutely beautiful and I can travel 9000 miles to come and see it. However, many Palestinians can’t travel the 15 kilometers (and technically the Dead Sea is in the West Bank) to see their own backyard. I hope that someday every person that lives in this country will get to see waterfalls and float in the Dead Sea.
We are excited to keep sharing our adventures and leaning with you!
Shalom and Ma’assalama.