Ramallah and Hope

Ramallah is, without a doubt, one of the craziest, busiest cities I have ever been to. And I’ve hung out in Times Square a bunch of times. There are people EVERYWHERE. In the streets, in the sidewalks, in the stores. At least on that Friday when we visited, that was the case. It was an hour and a half taxi ride through some VERY up and down hills from Bethlehem.

The traffic was also incredibly backed up – we noticed that more on the way out. There is a checkpoint that you have to go through to get out of Ramallah. Janelle pointed out that the 45 minutes or so we spent in traffic was indicative of the time that many residents of Ramallah have to spend on a regular basis to get in and out of their city.

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Our main destination in Ramallah was Hope Lutheran Church and conversation/Bible Study with Pastor Imad. He is incredibly brilliant and his words caused lightning sparks of connection and knowledge to flash in my head, and so I will just let some of his words that I journaled speak for themselves.  Photos by UB, again.
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-“We are not ‘perfect’ but we are called in, with and for society. The minute we close our doors from society is the minute you can call us dead.”
-“We choose” [to exist] “a choice out of faith.” (This made me think about the church’s narrative of decline in the US. We can choose to think abundantly instead!!!)
-It would be “more dangerous if we live the occupation in our hearts.”
-“We need the church to be with the people wherever the people is.” That’s why Hope’s community center, where we were gathered in the above picture, is open every day from 4 – 11. People can come and watch soccer there, get snacks, hang out.
-“Love is not always emotion. Love can be anger.”
-“It is a community journey to live God’s image.
-“I say hello to people with guns. They are human beings.”
-“Whatever actions religious leaders take or words they say affects people in the Holy Land.”
-“There is no theology without context.”
-talking about vine and branches: “Sometimes we need to be cut so we can grow. Ministry and mission…you cut, you give power, you grow more, and you spread…If you cut a good branch, it will grow and give fruit. This is what a church is. A vine.”

Pastor Imad is also a brilliant drum player. We were blown away.
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Reflection on Talitha Kumi/Environmental Education Center of the ELCJHL

An excerpt from a sermon preached on Sunday, June 28, 2015 at Saint Luke Lutheran Church in Silver Spring, MD. Gospel: Mark 5:21-38

“One day during our trip to Israel and Palestine, my group visited a Lutheran school for children of all ages in the village of Beit Jala, which is near Bethlehem, in the West Bank. We visited this school to tour the Environmental Education Center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (or the ELCJHL). We toured the garden containing both plants and trees that are native to the land, as well as foreign plants and trees that are not. We walked on fun, kid-friendly boardwalks and even got to climb into a kind of treehouse.

We saw the water treatment system, which filters and renews waste-water from the school to water the garden. This water treatment system represents good stewardship of God’s creation. It is also useful because Palestinian communities frequently experience water shortages.

The name of the school is from the Aramaic language, the same Aramaic we hear in the gospel reading for this morning. The name of the school is Talitha Kumi. ‘Little girl, get up.’

The Palestinian children of Talitha Kumi are confined to a limited geographical area due to policies of the Israeli government. They or their family members may have had firsthand exposure to violence due to tensions at military checkpoints and some cities in the West Bank.

At their school, at the Environmental Education Center, the children can, and do, get up.

As they learn about conservation and care for God’s creation at the Environmental Education center, their understanding of the world grows. The children are not powerless victims. They are empowered children of God. The education and care that they receive at school strengthens their minds and their ability to live in a world where they may not always feel welcome. In a world where a tall concrete wall that runs between the olive groves, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem usually prevents them and Israeli children from getting to know one another. The empowerment that they receive through programs such as the Environmental Education center reminds them that a way of more peaceful living is possible.”

Anna Ernst
aernst@lstc.edu