As most of you watched on Instagram and Facebook, I was traveling through the Holy Land last with another group of spiritual pilgrims interested in seeing the Holy Sites and visiting with real people on the ground to understand what’s going on.
It’s no secret the region has been tense over the last two months over some really key issues, and much of what I saw reflected that tension up close and personal.
The Holy Sites
If you haven’t been to see the Holy Sites in the land, you’re really missing out. Learning how Jesus moved from Galilee to Jerusalem is always an education. Sometimes when we read the stories in the Bible about Jesus, we tend to look through a Western theological lens. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of interpretation up for discussion without really getting into what Jesus was trying to tell the people of the land. When the Jews were under occupation from the Roman Empire, Jesus emerges to help people learn to deal with oppression, interpersonal relationships, and what it means to connect with God.
Through this lens, some of the parables emerge from the darkness of ambiguity to real live stories people on the ground would have known how to interpret exclusively through the paradigm of their own personal narratives.
The Holy Land
Of course if you’ve seen the news lately you know the Holy Land has experienced some of the most violent uprisings in the last two months than it’s seen in the last several years. Young People are expressing a great outrage in the Palestinian West Bank Communities. Israelis are expressing their frustration with the situation in and around East Jerusalem. Both parties are concerned with security and safety, and for once, I believe the news media is reporting the tension well.
Israeli soldiers are scared and jittery.
Palestinians are fearful the peace process is all but finished.
Jews are fearful of Muslims.
Muslims are fearful of Jews.
Christians are leaving the region in droves.
It’s just a very tense situation at every single stop.
But every now and again, you can run into people of hope.
The People in the Holy Land
I met so many people who are engaging in Peace. I sat with one of my spiritual heroes Elias Chacour in the north part of Israel called Irbil. I met with a local Israeli academic. I met with a group who is interested in helping students understand how to live in the region without adopting the status quo of hate. And overall, I think there are some VERY bright lights shining on both sides of the separation wall.
What I find most often: People are people.
All people long for the basic human rights afforded by God. They long to chase the principles in America’s founding documents, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Humbly, every time I engage in the Holy Land I find new pieces to a very complex puzzle. There’s no easy way to solve this battle that has been going on for the last 70 years. It’s intermingled with generational hatred, religious opposition, social divide, and probably the most depressing: people who are living in total isolation from the “others.” Fear and Hatred are often the result of deep separation and un-knowing, and if you ever want to see it on a grand scale, come and join me on a trip to the Holy Land. Even people who are loving and caring humans have hard times loving when they operate in spaces void of “knowing” one another.
The only hope I know of is the hope offered from Jesus himself. Loving God and Loving others is a place to begin restoring, reconciling, and creating spaces where people can live in peace.
More on the various meetings next week. I think you’ll be interested in hearing about those rays of hope. I know I sure was.