In preparation for our travel to the Holy Land, we have many ideas and emotions about the journey. We have read and heard stories and facts. Everyday, our eyes and ears are attentive to the news and the human stories being told. There are constant shifts in perspective and policy and promise.
In a meeting, about a month ago, we did an exercise posting single words that described our Expectations and our Hopes for the journey. As we depart, I think these words are still applicable and will be touchstones as we live into the pilgrimage.
One of the things that encouraged us to use MEJDI tours is their concept of a dual narrative, that we would have an Israeli and a Palestinian guide, representing their unique backgrounds and perspectives. Two books that were highly recommended for understanding Palestinian and Israeli histories were A Tale of Love and Darknessby Israeli author and activist Amos Oz and Once Upon a Countryby Palestinian activist, philosopher, and President of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh. These two excerpts from their books help underscore the different views about refugees:
Amos Oz (after 1948): “Nearly everything in the young state in those days was named for those who had died in battle, or for heroism, or for the struggle, the illegal immigration and the realization of the Zionist dream. The Israelis were very proud of their victory and entrenched in the justice of their cause and their feelings of moral superiority. People did not think much about the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons, many of whom had fled and many others of whom had been driven out of the towns and villages conquered by the Israeli army.
Sari Nusseibeh: “…addressing an Israeli audience….It doesn’t matter whether you set out premeditatively to cause the Palestinian refugee tragedy, I told them, the tragedy did occur, even as an indirect consequence of your actions. In our tradition, you have to own up to this. You have to come and offer an apology. Only this way will Palestinians feel that their dignity has been recognized, and be able to forgive. But by denying all responsibility, besides being historically absurd to the point of craziness, you will guarantee eternal antagonism – a never-ending search for revenge.”
Although our St. Mark’s pilgrimage does not “officially” begin until September 25th in Jerusalem, the truth is that we have been preparing for over a year. In good St. Mark’s tradition, we have spent time educating ourselves about the Holy Land and the Arab/Israeli conflict and we’ve invited the whole community to join us. This blog is an important part of that sharing.
Our speakers have included Amb. Philip Wilcox (Ret) director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and former Counsel General in Jerusalem, and Aziz Abu Sarah who heads MEJDI Tours which attracted us because of its “dual narrative” approach, meaning we’ll have both an Israeli and a Palestinian guide.
We’ve explored peace making strategies with Rabbi Marc Gopin and heard first-hand about life for Palestinian Christians from Rev. Sari Ateek and Philip Farah. Rabbi Jack Moline gave us an American Jewish perspective of Israel. Corinne Whitlatch, former Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace and glass artist, and author Jane Geniesse shared cultural insights. Our own Lindsey Jones talked about her work in a Bethlehem refugee camp.
Peter Hawley maintained a lending library of books, DVDs, and CDs about all aspects of the conflict as well as taking us through a mini-version of a class on Steadfast Hope. Individual members of the group researched some of the Biblical sites we will visit.
Some of us will have read a lot, some of us will have not, some were able to attend all of the discussions, some only a few. And that is just fine. No matter how much any of us knows or doesn’t know, there will be much to learn individually and as a group.
When he learned he and Gretchen could not make the trip with us, David Willson wrote: “I wish you all a journey of peace, nourishment of the body and soul, enrichment, learning and understanding.”
“St. Mark’s is the Church of the Open Communion – “wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever you believe or don’t believe, baptized or not, we welcome you to join us.” It is a church where some 700 men, … Continue reading →
August 25, 2013 – We invited the St. Mark’s community, our families and friends, to travel with us to the Holy Land. Our trip officially begins September 25 in Jerusalem, but we have been preparing for over a year. We … Continue reading →
In the fall of 2012, the St. Mark’s Mid-East Working Group offered an opportunity for travel to the Holy Land in 2013. Twenty-eight travelers from St. Mark’s responded. Now we are about to depart at the end of September and for 11 days in late September and early October, we will visit holy sites, meet with people whose lives are integral to the land, engage in thoughtful discussions, and be part of a contextual pilgrimage.
Our trip, led by MEJDI tours, will include meetings with groups and individuals who are deeply invested in work for peace and justice. MEJDI is world-known for offering cultural immersion, dual-narrative tours. Their guides will introduce us to the people and places. These opportunities to see the causes of Arab/Israeli conflict as well as the opportunities for peace in Israel and Palestine.
This blog will serve as a window into our day to day experiences. As we individually and collectively work through this very personal experience, we promise to share with the St. Mark’s community honest, thoughtful accounts of our travels. In the end, we hope, this pilgrimage will provide (for us and our blog readers) a greater understanding of historic and current issues in the Middle East, and together we’ll use the knowledge we’ve gained to further partnerships with peace-seeking individuals and groups in all faith communities.