Living in Peace

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of out fathers? Malachi 2:10-11

Last night some YAGM and I saw Where do we go now? The film tells the story small remote Lebanese village trying to not let the violence between Muslims and Christians seep into the fairly peaceful coexistence that Muslims and Christians had before Lebanon’s Civil War. As news of clashes between Muslims and Christians makes it into the village tensions run high so the women of the village work together using funny schemes to keep peace.

Here’s a preview of the movie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Te9c2jReOg

To me this movie really hit home. Living, learning, and growing in this place has taught me that even if we believe different things we are all created in God’s imagine. We should all strive to treat each other as such. 

Hospitality

 During my sixth months here I’ve been invited into many homes and embraced by people in my church and at school. February seemed particularly busy time for my social calender.

At the beginning of the month, Pastor Imad open his home to the YAGM and had a bbq, it was great spending time together, helping cook and playing with their adorable daughters. The food was amazing it was like Thanksgiving Palestinian style and we even had pork!

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One of the staff at Helen Keller invited me into her home, I spent all day with her and her family listening to their stories and eating delicious food, they fed me breakfast, lunch and tried to serve me dinner. My favorite part was hearing their stories of growing up and simply being present listening to how their life unfolded.

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One of the youths at the Arabic speaking Lutheran church in Jerusalem had a birthday! I had a lot of fun watching him open presents and they had two cakes!

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And then my Arabic lesson which is easily the highlight of my week, I go to my teacher’s house and learn for about an hour then the rest of the night is spend eating and drinking numerous cups of yansoon.

How welcoming people have been has made me feel like Palestine is my home. It would be so much easier for them to not take the time to know me since there are a flood of foreigners here and so much turn over but they are interested in getting to know me. The best part is they do not treat you as a guest but as one of the family making you feel comfortable. 

Prayer

One of the many things I love about my school is the ability to talk about the differences and similarities between Christianity and Islam. The students learn and celebrate Christmas but we also learn and celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad. I asked one of the teachers what they do to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birth since the holiday was this week. She said it isn’t a major holiday but they eat a special dessert and visit family. The most important thing to do during this holiday is to reflect on what Prophet Muhammad did and what does it mean to be a follower of the Prophet. My sixth graders overheard the conversation and asked me how many times I pray. I told them that is hard to answer since it depends on the day. Then I was flooded with questions: can you pray whenever you want? What do I say? How long are your prayers? So I said a prayer for them and they listened. Then they asked if I knew the “now I lay me down to sleep prayer” because they say that prayer too. It was really awesome to hear that we know the same prayer.Then the teacher said I think we all agree on the basics “to live in peace and treat others with kindness” I agree.

5 Broken Cameras

 

The first time I watched the documentary 5 Broken Camera I was at a bookshop in Jerusalem. There was going to be discussion after the film but when the film ended no one could speak. Silence. The film stayed with me. I think what spoke to me the most was that the children on the film could be my students, the adults could be the people I sit next to on the bus. I encourage you to watch it. The film’s raw style show’s the struggle of a community who has lost their land to a settlement and their struggle for justice. 

http://www.hulu.com/watch/434845 

 

8 days of uncertainty

Thank you all for your concern, your prayers, and your interest in my community’s well being. I felt so loved when everyone contacted me when things escalated between Israel and Gaza. The hardest part of the week was the uncertainly, were other countries going to join in the attack? Was Israel going to invade by land? Would we be sent home? Could this lead to a third intifada?

During this time I learned an important lesson, you must keep living, you can’t let the threat of uncertainty keep you from action, you still have to go to work, take care of your children, make dinner. One person told me, “the people here we just want to live but were stuck between two governments that want war.” I learned a new way to accompany Palestine by listening to their stories, their hopes, and mourning with them.

 

Here is my take on what happened.

 

But first here’s some background on Gaza

  •  Gaza is roughly the size of D.C.
  • Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza, many of them concentrated in one-half of the territory. In this area, the population density is nearly 20,000 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world.
  • Over one-half of its residents are children. In addition, with an annual growth rate of nearly 3.5%, Gaza’s young and fertile population is projected to reach over 2 million people in 8 years.
  • UN reported Gaza won’t be livable in 2020
  • The Gaza Strip has become the world’s most aid-dependent region in the world, with over 90% of the population relying on aid shipments of some sort
  • In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements.
  •  Israel still controls maritime, airspace, and other access to the Gaza Strip

 

 

The cause of the escalation depends on who you talk to – but on Wednesday, Israel assassinated Ahmed al-Jaabari, a Hamas leader. He also played a key role in the capture and release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Then Gaza fired rockets off into Southern Israel and Israel bombed Gaza.

Most of the rockets Gaza used are crude and landed mostly in empty areas.Israeli’s rockets were are much more sophisticated and inflicted devastating damage to hospitals, media stations, mosques, schools, and homes almost all landed squarely in populated areas injuring and killing civilians. In the end, there were 166 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed.

 

Here are some things I continue to think about:

 

At what point does “defending” breed terrorist?

What does in mean to our society that you could follow live blogs of the bombings, Youtube videos of people dying, post grotesque pictures of dead children on facebook? At what point does “defense” turn into terror? 

 

 

Here are some links on Gaza:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gz.html CIA World factbook

 http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip Israeli human rights organization

 

http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20121121_let_gaza_breathe

Jesus Village

 

 

During our retreat (you can read about it in my “update” post) We toured historical village reconstructed to be similar to villages in the time of Jesus and his followers. We interacted with shepherds, carpenters, and women spindling thread. We saw a wine and olive press and crops.  Seeing the context in which Jesus lived gave me a new appreciation for Jesus’s teachings. Jesus’ ability use analogies in the perfect way that people would understand.

My favorite part was seeing the olive press, Olives were pressed three times, the first press was used for religious purposes, the second was for cosmetics and cooking, the third was used to light the lamps.

I also learned that Gethsemane is translated into pressing olives or olive press. When Jesus was in the garden he prayed three times, was God pressing him to get the most out of him?

Matthew 26:39 and going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed My father if it be possible let this cup pass from me nevertheless not as I will but as thou will

42 again for the second time he went away and prayed my father if this cannot pass unless I drink it they will be done 44 so leaving them again he went away and prayed for the third time saying the same words.

 

Here are some pictures of Jesus Village.

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Some actors harvesting olives.

 

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An olive tree

 

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me and some goats

Update

My apologies for the absence of blog posts, these last three weeks I have been extremely busy, work, Arabic lessons, fall retreat and the horrific events that have happen in Gaza, and making friends. I’ve been so busy cultivating relationships, reflecting, and trying to process everything that has happened that I have neglected telling all of you what I’ve been up to!

 

Sway sway (slowly slowy) I’ll start by telling you all about the rejuvenating fall retreat my fellow YAGM and I went on November 15-18 in the Galilee. We had a lot of reflection, worship, and got to see some sites. One of my favorite reflections was from a sermon one of my fellow YAGM’s gave. We went to a place that commemorate  Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 or 4000 depending on what gospel you read.

 In John 6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias and a multitude followed him because they saw the sign which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain and there sat down with hi disciples. Now the Passover the feast of the Jews was at hand. Lifting up his eyes then and seeing that a multitude  was coming to him Jesus said to Phillip How are we to buy bread  so that these people may eat? This he said to test him for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him Two hundred denari would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little….Sometimes I feel like Phillip. One year can’t make a difference even a 100 years wouldn’t make a difference. But Jesus takes our offering that turns it into a miracle. He says what you give is enough.  He takes my year of service, the smile I give the shop keepers, the solidarity I give to Palestinian people and works with it, what I give is enough that there is something heart warming and reassuring in that.