Spiritual Adventure Time!

A Glimpse Behind-the-Scenes of the West Bank

In Tel Aviv, I got a text asking me to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when I got back to the States. After my own glimpse behind-the-scenes of the West Bank, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to say what I was thinking out loud. Some of my thoughts weren’t very nice. 

So I wrestled with God. How do I put all this into perspective? What do You want me to say when people ask? And why should I care about what’s going on in the Middle East with all the shootings in the US?

There I stood in front of thirty-five people at the Congregational Church in Falmouth, Massachusetts. I told them about my struggle and then took a deep breath. A sweet lady dressed in a sari said, “You are safe here.” So I began.

We all have a bias. Even though I want to, I can’t seem to lay mine aside.

That’s what I thought as I walked away from a tour called Dual Hebron

Eli, a Jewish guide, had taken us to the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Jews, Muslims, and Christians have paid homage to Abraham and Sarah, the ancestors of all three faiths, for thousands of years. Inside the synagogue, Eli also showed us the graves of Isaac and Rebecca, the forbearers of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Jews. 

Then we exited and met with Mohammad, a Palestinian guide, who took us around the same building and brought us inside a mosque. From both sides, we could see Abraham’s tomb in the middle divided by bulletproof glass. 

Isn’t that just a picture of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in its simplest terms. Click here to see several shots.

After, we went to the Old City market with Mohammad. A shopkeeper served us a cold drink and told us how limited he felt living in the “occupied territory.” Depending on who you ask, definitions around the conflict differ.

After lunch in a Palestinian home where Mohammad answered our questions,

he took us back to reconnect with Eli and we went into the home of a settler. Do you know what a settler is?  Wikipedia describes Israeli settlements: “as civilian communities inhabited by Israeli citizens, almost exclusively of Jewish ethnicity, built predominantly on lands within the Palestinian territories,” but again depending on who you ask, definitions around the conflict differ.

Rather than call Hebron an occupied territory, this settler describes it as “the God-given inheritance of the Jewish people.”

At the end of the tour, I struggled with my thoughts as I climbed on the bus heading toward Jerusalem. The young guy sitting next to me said, “Why don’t you just own your bias?”

In this divisive world, especially when it comes to politics, that’s what I didn’t want to do. However, I’m taking his advice and trying to figure out how to put all I’ve seen into words.

After my glimpse behind-the-scenes of the West Bank, I wondered, what do I believe about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

In 2003, I came to Israel with Zionist leanings. From what I saw in the Bible, I believed God had given the land to the Israelites. I’d hoped to make friends with some of their descendants in order to learn about the background of my Christian faith.

That didn’t happen. Aside from a couple of Israeli teachers, I didn’t have a place where I connected with local Jews. 

However, I did interact with a Palestinian family that lived and worked on the campus of Jerusalem University College and I met Palestinian women in a Bible Study. Plus I regularly stopped to talk to several shop owners in the Old City, also Palestinian. 

That’s when I sensed God’s nudge to move to Jericho and work as a missionary. I didn’t want to, but I thought about the story of Jonah who ended up in the belly of a whale when he ran from God. After a year in Jerusalem living amongst Israelies, I moved across what’s called the Green Line into the West Bank and lived with Palestinians for the same length of time. 

There were no Jews in Jericho. And even though Palestinians can be killed in the city center for conversion, I watched several of them convert to Christianity because they’d had dreams or visions of Christ. 

That’s where it became clear to me that God not only loves the Jewish people, but He also loves the Palestinians. 

Every time I lean in favor of one group, I visit the other.

This summer, I went to Hebron twice. Once with the Dual Hebron tour and then again with some Isreali ex-soldiers on a tour called  Breaking The Silence. The ex-soldiers told us about their struggle with their military service.

As we drank tea in a Palestinian home, one of the ex-soldiers said she could have been exempt from the two years of service because her parents are religious. Instead, she chose to serve because she has compassion for the Palestinians. She thought she might treat them better than a soldier who didn’t.

She gave us three books filled with testimonies after reading an excerpt to us. In it, one soldier told how settlers would come out of their weekly service at the synagogue and invite him home for dinner. Hungry for a home-cooked meal, he went. After several visits, he realized he’d not only be fed dinner but also a dose of their philosophy. He stopped dining with settlers.

I didn’t forget the movie version of this story.

I promised you videos, interviews even, but some people didn’t want to go on record because they didn’t want a sound byte of what they said taken out of context and going viral. Others, like my Palestinian friend who converted to Christianity, can’t even tell his wife about it for his own protection so I didn’t want to film him. 

However, the tour guides let me tape them because they want their stories told. The problem with those videos is that the new case for the phone I bought covers two of the six microphone holes. So, all the footage I took, and I did take a lot, skips.

Don’t worry, I think there are bits I can salvage. I just need to learn how to do that.

Over and over, as I visited with people, I looked for their bias and watched how both sides attempted to convince me they were right. I saw where each played the victim. And some days, I thought everyone needed a spanking, myself included, for the way I felt.

Here’s the thing that most scared me.

When I thought about blogging, I wanted to share more than my perspective. Like I said before, we need each other. Coming from different backgrounds with unique stories, all of our viewpoints are important. And like puzzle pieces, when we unite them, the picture grows. 

The young man sitting next to me on the bus leaving Hebron said, for him, the 19-year-old soldiers were a symbol of the two people groups and the infantile behavior they’re exhibiting. So there’s one vantage point. I’m still working on mine. 

What do you think?

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