Hope: The Dance of Life

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.

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Complex Memories

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.

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Eyes Wide Open

By: Bahati Mwitula (Chicago, IL)

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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.

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Discovery

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

Calling Young Adults of Color!

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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.

 

Emmanuel- God with us, and THEM

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”.

-Bjørn 

Holy Land Hospitality

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.