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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Tekoa – “None of this is right, y’all.”

In Biblical history, Tekoa is the area of the Holy Land where the prophet Amos lived and did much of his prophesying. Amos is one of the shortest books of the 12 minor prophets, but this prophet is known for this well-known verse, 5:24 –

“But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Tekoa today is the site of an Israeli settlement. As my group paused from a drive through the West Bank to look out over Tekoa, we saw the red roofs of the settlement contrasted with the black water tanks of the Palestinian village nearby. And I thought to myself, “This is what segregation looks like. There it is. Resources and water to the settlement, and the Palestinians have to store water on their roofs.”

(I can’t find a great picture at the moment, but hopefully I’ll find one later.)

This is what we saw. And then I thought about a south side Chicago march in solidarity with Baltimore residents protesting the death of Freddie Gray. How the neighborhood of Hyde Park was visibly red-lined with police officers who would not let protestors walk past them from Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. The wealthy institutions and neighborhoods were protected. There wasn’t a similar concern for the other neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park.

None of this is right, y’all.