The Holy and The Profane

By: Nicole Newman (Washington D.C.)

Israeli soldiers tinker with armor

Adjust guns on hips

Too young to know what damage

A gun that size can do

They watch with scared hard eyes

In some, there is a youthful softness

Like young men in the states drafted

Before they know there are other options

And I wonder who decided who needs to be watched and who are the watchers

And maybe these soldiers like this service

Maybe duty and country are constructs

Only foreign to the descendants of former slaves

Maybe our service looks different

Maybe these soldiers like the power of being able to decide who come and goes

Who loves and lives and dies in an instance

The young girl dead from 5 bullets to the chest

Didn’t adjust

I watch Muslim woman both covered with a hijab and in skinny jeans and think there is something oddly beautiful about tradition with a modern twist

I wonder did her hijab come loose as her body hit the floor

Or was it wrapped so tightly it did not move

What moves here??

What is the currency?? Is it blood?? Is it nationalism? What is being held so tightly??

Land?

I have come to hear from living stones

Rocks that will cry out and yet there is something

Both holy and profane about this place

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Dulled Magic: Embodied Resistance

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.

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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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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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