Monday, July 30, 2007

Do I look suspicious?

Please remind me never to fly with El Al again. After being up all night I arrived at the airport at 6 this morning and was subjected to the most ridiculous security check imaginable. I had to lie through my teeth about staying in Palestine or they wouldn't have let me on board. They emptied and searched both my bags five times. They interrogated me on anything resembling Arabic writing. They looked through all my photos and asked me a hundred times was I interested in Palestine. They put me in a little room for half an hour then performed a body search that left me violated. They almost had me convinced that I was a terrorist.

Security- 'Do you understand why we have to check you?'
Me- 'Eh the same reason as the last four times'
Security- 'Are you interested in Palestine?'
Me (into myself)- 'I'm interested in smashing your face into the desk so your nose is spread right round to your ears, then I'll pebble dash the back of your throat with your teeth.

To make matters worse the flight was so late I missed my connection so I'm now stuck in London, tired and emotional, with nothing better to do than have a good moan on my blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Only Way

(more pics here)

Marhaba Salam Shoukran

This will probably be my last blog before I leave. This week has mainly involved practical work including gardening, painting and building walls (for sitting on!) in Bethlehem and in a refugee camp. We have visited a home for people with special needs and an orphanage

We have also met some of the most inspirational Christians I have ever come into contact with. Here are two-

This is the guy who brought us to different places to work. He was brought up as a Muslim but converted to Christianity. As a result he was disowned by his family and his wife. He is now back with his wife and praying for her. His brothers have tried to kill him. He devotes his life to serving.

He works in the house with people with special needs. He devotes all his spare time into going into Muslim homes and serving them, painting and doing manual labour. Even at weekends and days off he is serving. Through this witness and relationships he hopes to bring these people to Christ.

Philip Rizk
Philip came to speak to us on his way home from Gaza. He has been living there for two years and has a heart-breaking story of the suffering of the people there. I thought the West Bank was bad but this truly seems a place of misery.

The situation there has been on the news a lot. Basically they had elections that were the most democratic the Middle East have ever seen. Hamas won them as people wanted an alternative to the corruption and lack of results from Fatah. Because Hamas are fundamentalist Islam who want to wipe Israel off the map the results were not recognised by the international community.

Hamas have now seized control of Gaza by force and as a result the world has cut off all relations with the people there. Israel does not allow trade in or out of Gaza. The people are imprisoned. 1.2 out of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza are receiving food aid. 75% of the bread winners have no job.

The western perception is that Gaza is under Palestinain control since Israel removed all the Jewish settlements from the area. This is not true. Israel controls the air, the sea and the borders of Gaza. They are not allowed an airport, fishing is rationed, and the people are not allowed to move. All of the borders around Gaza are closed. It is a prison to 1.5 million people. Philip also described it as a zoo. People are fed and watered by aid agencies, they are kept alive but not allowed to leave. Foriegners come in, take pictures of those who are suffering and then leave. There is not a single western journalist living in Gaza.

Philip's best friend in Gaza recently lost 17 of his family when the Israeli army shelled his house. They called it a technical error. People don't get a trial or imprisonment there. They get shelled.
The place is at complete deadlock and all anyone wants to do there is to get out. With the division between Hamas and Fatah and the oppression from Israel this is a place without hope.

Philip is an amazing Christian. He admits there is no hope for the area except for the church. For Christ-like people to achieve a central role. To be salt and light.

This place is a timebomb and when it explodes it will affect the world. I have been thinking loads about the situation here and in the world. It has become Fundamentalist Islam v Western Society (standing for Israel and America). I think as Christians we have to take a third way. A road less travelled. The kingdom way. Following the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies, speak out against oppression and stand against injustice.

I am now more educated than ever about other religions. All my life I've struggled with that whole question- how do we know that we're right and they're wrong? I'm now convinced that hope for our world cannot be found through Islam, Judaism or patriotism. I've never been more sure that Jesus is the truth and the only way.

(Elias' grafitti)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tent of Nations

(more pics if you click here)

Spent the past few days roughing it at the Tent of Nations. Here I saw a ray of light and inspiration surrounded by despair and hopelessness.

The Tent of Nations sounds grand but it's basically a few tents and some farm land on 100 acres of free land. The man who runs it is a Palestinian Christian who is an inspiration in these parts because he is standing up to the Israeli state who want to take his land and fighting them in Israeli courts. He has created a place of reconciliation that all people can come and meet together.

As you may be aware Israel is building many settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territorys. These are built on Palestinian land as most Palestinians do not have papers to prove that they have lived and worked on the land for generations. In 1967 the Israelis passed a law to prevent Palestinians from registering the land. The settlements are beautiful and highly fortified. The people there live like kings and queens while the Palestinian villagers who once owned the land struggle without enough food, water or electricity.

Tent of Nations
Dawod's grandfather began cultivating this land in 1916. The land was registered and there are papers showing ownership through the Ottoman/British/Jordanian and now Israeli occupations. It is basically a hill surrounded by Israeli settlements. Despite having the papers the Israelis having been trying to take the land since 1991. Everywhere else they just take it but Dawod has been fighting against all odd in the courts to keep it. It's an unbelievable story of intimidation from settlers and soldiers, being forced to spend thousands of dollars in court, and constant postponements. Settlers come with guns and destroy water tanks, uproot hundreds of trees and block the only road to the hill. The police do nothing.

He is not allowed to build anything on his own land. Not even a well for water or a chicken shed. He is not allowed electricity or a water supply.

Despite taking it to the Israeli High Court it still hasn't been resolved. Pray for this place. It's a rare spot of hope. Dawod brings angry teenagers from the city and teaches them peace and hope and tries to help them work towards building a better, non-violent country. He is trying to teach them to create something from nothing....redemption. So they don't sit around and cry and become victims. We stayed with a crowd of teenagers from Bethlehem and had an amazing time. They are just like the lads from Lurgan except they are caged.They crave our freedom.

The Village
Dawod is also the hope for the village below the hill. The village that used to own all the land where these huge Israeli settlements are now built. They now live on 20% of the land they once owned and are not allowed to expand. The village is 100% Muslim.... so we have a Christian family fighting for the rights of the Muslim neighbours.

We walked into the village last night. Despite being Christian foreigners we were welcomed with open arms. We had a crowd of 50 odd kids following us about. The situation is critical. We met a doctor who volunteers in the only clinic there. He talked about the intimidation from the settlers. They come down and shoot people. They dump their rubbish and sewage into the village. The people here are short of everything. Water and electricity is scarce. The clinic does not even have bandages to treat wounds.

To compound all of this in 2 months time the wall is going to be built around the village. There will only be one exit and the people will be under curfew. They are not allowed to build a hospital and the nearest one is in Bethlehem. This is only 10 minutes away but because of all the checkpoints (in Palestinian land) and the wall it will take hours to get there. The doctors fear that many will die. Basically they just want the people to give up and leave.

The doctor admitted the situation is hopeless for them. I have seen hope in him, in Dawod, in Elias. These amazing Christian guys who reject the easy option of violence and decide to forgive and work towards a better future. However, they have all said the same thing to me that has been repeated by many people that I have met.....that dogs in Israel are worth more than people in Palestine.

From what I've seen I couldn't disagree and it keeps me awake at night.

Anyway, we cheered ourselves up by writing some grafitti on the wall!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

'Welcome my friend'

Marhaba Habibi

I'm feeling much better and thinking with more clarity the past couple of days. I'm having fun so Mum you can stop worrying! Got lots of pics but computers are crap so I can't post them.

For the first few days in Palestine I couldn't handle what I was seeing. After loving Israel so much I wanted to remain in that place. To reminisce in all I had done and believe everything I had heard. I just wanted to go home and not have to turn my face towards the situation here. I was resisting it because by mind couldn't handle it. But no longer.

I've thought a lot about the theology of Zionism but that's for another time. The fact is that even if it was God's plan for Israel to be formed in 1948, the way it has been implemented is simply wrong. If my love for Israel remains after this trip it will be as a father who is watching his son do wrong and is angry. I can't brush Palestine under the carpet like many seem to have done.... so I've turned my face and am embracing the situation here, soaking up as much as I can. I've always hated injustice and the denial of human rights. Never before have I seen it so blatant yet accepted and sanctioned by religion.

I love being with the people here. I've travelled a lot but never met such friendly and welcoming people as these Bethlehem folk. Everywhere you go you hear 'hello', 'marhaba', 'where you from', 'welcome', 'you are welcome'. You walk down the street and everyone wants to chat. We go on a 5 minute bus journey and get invited to people's villages and houses for food or Arabic coffee. It's a pity we're too busy to accept all these offers.

Sitting smoking water pipe and listening to people's stories is both entertaining and heart-wrenching. They have developed an amazing resilience and community spirit very similar to what I have seen in Africa. However, in their eyes and words they carry deep hurt. Hurt from the past and a fear that the future is worse. They crave freedom. They miss friends, family, lovers who lie on the other side of this oppresive, impregnable wall.

Despite this I have seen hope. Not in politics or religion for surely there is no hope here. But in people. I have seen Jesus in Christians and Muslims (!). This morning we went to Emmanuel Church in Bethlehem! It was an amazing time of worship. I couldn't understand a word but the music was at the same time haunting, heart-wrenching and uplifting. Elias said the words were a cry to God for help and freedom in a time of drowning and no hope. I'll get him to translate one for me.

Anyways, sorry for these long posts. I've so much more to say but everyone has probably stopped reading by now. I was thinking of this verse this morning. Jesus was born 3 minutes from where I'm currently sitting. I wonder if he weeps for the children who are born here now.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I still feel like a cloud of something like depression has been following me around here. It is ridiculous and hard to explain when I consider my position in comparison to the Palestinian people and some of my friends and home who are really hurting. Nevertheless it's hard to shake.

I knew the things I would see and hear here would be different but they are opposite extremes. From falling in love with Jerusalem and Israel to seeing what they are doing here. From being told to be a Christian is to be a Zionist to being told you can't be a Christian and a Zionist. I came here with a viewpoint and after much thought and processing it changed completely. Now it's changing again and it's too much to take in.

So much to say and so little time but here goes.....


Passing the checkpoint from Israel to Palestine is moving from a Western country to a third world country. You can read the history on Wilkipedia or something and work out the theology and politics for yourself. I'll talk about what I see.

Israel has only existed since 1948 when the UN decided to set up a Jewish state. It was formerly Palestine and those who lived in villages there were forced out and their houses destroyed. Now 6 million refugees live in refugee camps in Gaza, West Bank and othe Arab nations.

The occupation has been brutal beyond words. We have heard stories that aren't propoganda or rumours but real life people who are suffering.

The Wall

This will become the centrepiece of my trip. The israelis say it is for security and point to the fact that attacks have become less since it was erected. Palestinians point to the fact that it is not built on the UN green lines that divide Israel and the West Bank but rather miles outside, stealing land and freedom from the people here. Bethlehem is basically like a large cage that Palestinians cannot travel beyond.


Elias is an amazing Palestinian Christian who is rapidly becoming a good friend. The wall was built right beside his house removing the land his family owned. He watched during the last intifada as kids threw stones and soldiers and the soldiers shot back and killed them. I'm not taking sides here but it really pissed me off yesterday as we all went to Jerusalem and he couldn't come. Palestinians are not allowed into Israel without special permission. It is only 15 minutes from his house. A crowd of random foreigners can roam this land freely but the Elias, a Christian who traces his ancestors for 500 years in this country cannot move past the wall 100 yards from his house.

Refugee Camps

We visited Camp Lajee on the first day, home to 4500 people. These people were forced to leave their villages and come here. When they came they had some land around but now the wall is built there is zero space for them to move or for kids to play. This is to create space for Jewish settlements in the area (more about these later). If the wall is just for security why not build it aroung the settlement rather and let the people in the camp keep their land?

Today we were at Dheisheh refugee camp. 11,000 people live here in an area of 500 m square. The main problems are water and electricity which are controlled by the Israeli state. In the winter they run out of electricity and are cold. In the summer they don't have enough water to supply basic needs. The people are hungry and impoverished. They go to school and university but there are no jobs because the economy here is so bad and they have no land. Unemployment in Palestine is 75 per cent.

Even in our accomadation we have to be carefull water becuase when the tank runs out it only gets filled when the Israeli state decide to fill it. This means rationing of toileting and showering for us....beautiful! It's ok for 2 weeks, this is life for those in Bethlehem.


I was told that Christians here were being persecuted but this is simply untrue. We went to Bethlehem Bible College and met the man who trains pastors in the West Bank. It is opposite a 100% muslim refugee camp and they have no problem. Elias' mother runs a Christian bookshop beside the Fatah/PLO office and there is no issue. The people live in harmony so far.

There are 600 Christian organisations or 'missions' working in Israel. That's great but in the West Bank there are only 4 including YWAM seeking to share God's love with the poor and downtrodden here. 20% of Bethlehem are Christian, mainly Greek orthodox or Catholic. There less than 1000 'evangelicals'. It is so difficult for them.


The people here are amazingly warm and welcoming considering what they have been through. An example is in 2002 during the Second Intifada. There was a 40 day curfew imposed on Elias and all of Bethlehem. The people had no food and water. If they came out they got shot. I spoke to one guy whose brother stepped out to play and got shot in the head and killed. Another who opened the window and got shot.

I spoke to another guy whose father was 70 year old and decided to go get some food thinking the soldiers wouldn't touch him. He got 73 bullets in his back. Can you understand why these people may be angry?

We met a guy who is not a terrorist though I'm pretty sure has fought against the Israeli army. It was uncomfortable to hear his story. I'd been told in Israel that all Palestinians wanted the Jews out and Palestine restored. This guy said all they want is one state where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live together freely and equally. He said that no-one wants to be a fighter. No-one chooses to die or to kill. But they are living in inhumane conditions. He looked at us and said he wanted to be like us- to travel, to have his own house, to have a job, to have a girlfirend. I'll never condone violence but I shed a tear as he spoke.

I have so much more to say about what I have learned on both sides. I have been given a unique opportunity to see both and feel the pain on both sides. I have to go now but hopefully will get a chance to write more. In Israel they told me I have to stand for Israel and go home and tell the people and my church about their plight. Here they tell me there's no point in being here unless I can tell people at home about the situation in Palestine. So what do I bring home? There's no middle ground and seemingly no hope.

I hope it becomes clearer, my mind is still open.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


On arriving yesterday I sat under the wall waiting for Elias and looked at a vision of oppression and struggle everywhere.

I would appreciate prayer at this point. My head is so wrecked I can't write about what I have seen here so far. I have come from 2 amazing but intense weeks. I feel like I gave everything I had there and have nothing left to give. Everything I hear and see in Bethlehem is the polar opposite of what I have heard so far. My mind can't take anymore in.

I miss having a laugh with the great friends I made on the other team. Everything was full of wonder and fun and now all I see is pain and injustice. Where before I wanted to be at the centre of everything that was going on, I'm now just following people around quietly trying to work out how I'm going to get through 2 weeks. Sorry for complaining. I know I'm in an amazing position and I'll come around but I'm just trying to be honest with myself at this point.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jerusalem, if i forget you

Team have all gone their separate ways. I'm waiting in Jerusalem alone for a cab to the West Bank checkpoint at Bethlehem. I have had two of the best weeks of my life on so many levels. Emotional, physical, spiritual and craic!

Day 9
Went to the Mount of Olives this morning and walked the Palm Sunday Path. Visited the Garden of Gethsemane. Lots of the places they show you here from the bible are where they 'traditionally believe' Jesus was. They are sure however that this is the garden.

We then went to the place that they traditionally believe is Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. The guide had some convincing arguments but you could never be sure. Nevertheless it was first century place of crucifixion and burial and so again provides the visual aspect to the bible. We took communion there and it was special.

Hit the town at night with some of the great friends I've found here. It was the opening night of an Irish pub called 'Dublin'. So I took the plaudits like a true Irishman and drank Guinness with a Canadian, 2 Norwegians and a German. Surreal.

Day 10
I helped out this morning at a Shook Carmel Ha'lr soup kitchen. This is a place run by some Jews for the poor and hungry of the Old City of Jerusalem. The key is dignity and giving people a hand up. It looks like a nice restaurant and they come and sit and eat like normal human beings. Rich people come and eat and pay what they want and the poor eat for free. They then follow up on the children and adults that come and help them find a place in life. Awesome.

I sat chopping onions with a Jewish guy with a long beard and we talked about the political situations in Ireland and Israel. Because of my cynical nature I find it hard to accept everything I've been told from people from outside of Israel but this guy gave the troubles here a face.

He was a gentle, peaceful man who talked about his experiences of terror attacks on crowded streets and the day that Arabs shot his best friend as he sat beside him in the car. Chatting with him made me realise that we are not getting the full picture at home. Yes the Israelis have made mistakes but it is obvious that the average person in Jerusalem is living with a great deal of pain from the past and fear for the future.

The most important place was kept to the end. We went up onto the Temple Mount. This is where the temple was originally built, where the 'holy of holys' resided. Now the 'Dome of the Rock' (the Islamic mosque) is built there. As I stood and listened it is clear that this is the most controversial place in the world. The second Intifada started when Ariel Sharon visited it. The Jews pray at the Wailing Wall because it's the closest place they can get to their most holy place. This is occurring in their country. They can excavate around but not under the temple mount. If they did it would be WW3 between Islam and the West and that's not exaggerating. So the Israeli state maintains the status quo.

Everything I originally thought has been turned on its head here. I'm open to it changing again in Palestine. I still find it hard to say I support Israels leaders and its IDF but I have fallen in love with this land.

My mother used to make me pray for peace in Israel before every meal and once again this is my prayer.

Psalm 122 (The Message)
When they said, "Let's go to the house of God," my heart leaped for joy.

And now we're here, O Jerusalem, inside Jerusalem's walls!
Jerusalem, well-built city, built as a place for worship!
The city to which the tribes ascend, all God's tribes go up to worship,
To give thanks to the name of God, this is what it means to be Israel.
Thrones for righteous judgment are set there, famous David-thrones.

Pray for Jerusalem's peace!
Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!
For the sake of the house of our God, God,
I'll do my very best for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8

Shalom Shabbat

Excuse my lack of writing. The itinerary for this team is unreal. Every day we are doing things that is the stuff of dreams. We have little free time and when there is some I want to be out exploring and soaking it all in. This is a country like no other. Everything is so rich and diverse and wonderful.

Israel is like God- the more I learn about it the less I understand.
My head is fried trying to process it all but here goes.

Day 3 and 4

Our first project at a Hadassah Neurim Youth Village on the Mediterranean Coast. It's a village where many young people from Israel, Ethiopia, Ghana and and Arab nations live together. The common factor is that they come from abusive or poverty-stricken backgrounds.

I spent two days on the garden team swinging the hoe in temperatures over 35 degrees C! Nothing in Africa compared me for the fatigue of this. However, at night it felt amazing to sit by pool or a fire, cleaned bucked, just hanging out with folk. The team are amazing.

Day 5

One of those rare days that you experience in life that will live with you forever. Left the coast for the Dead Sea. This is the lowest point on earth with temperatures hitting 40 degrees C. Swimming in the Dead Sea is an incredibly surreal experience. The 'sand' is just a layer of salt. It's packed thick with salt and minerals. You couldn't sink even if you wanted to. You feel the stinging of cuts in places that you didn't know you had places!

Left the Dead Sea for the Judean Desert and spent the night sleeping in tents with the Bedouin. This was sweet for me cos I been teaching my kids about them this year. Bedoiun means 'Desert People'. They're also known as nomads.

It was my first chance to experience Arab hospitality and it was fascinating. They welcome friend and enemy to their tent because they say 'one day visitor, another day host'. They give the visitor 3 little cups of coffee;

1 to show respect

2 to offer protection

3 for fun!

If a criminal or known thief comes to visit they give them a full cup of coffee. This means that the criminal should leave without losing face. If the criminal; drinks the coffee the host is still obligated to feed and water the criminal. In this way they show respect to all and avoid ego giving way to conflict.

Ate an amazing Bedouin meal, went for a camel ride into the sunset, and stayed up most of the night staring at the stars. There are no obstructions in the desert, just stars all around, like a planetarium. I've rarely felt more insignificant and so in awe of God in one moment.

Day 6

Today was mainly travel to Jerusalem and lectures. Have just arrived in a pretty plush hotel after sleeping on the ground the last few nights. I'm bursting to get out and explore the city.
Will chat write later about lectures because everything is blurry.

Day 7
Woke up this morning and thought, 'My God, I'm in the centre of the universe'. We went into the Old City of Jerusalem this morning through the Jaffa Gate. We walked around the walls of the city in prayer and wonder. Pictures don't do it justice. All around tou are looking at; David's City, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Gehenna, and all these places that you have heard about Jesus walking and doing miracles.

We spent the day doing clean-up in the Arabic quarter of the Old City. It is full of narrow bustling streets, people of all shapes and creeds, shops, noise, colour, the smell of spices and leather. It is a place like no other.

In the afternoon we did a kid's club for some arabic kids which was pretty much like kids clubs in N.I. or Africa. Kid's are the same wherever. It's when they grow up that shit happens in the world. Right beside where we did the club these were houses were young men were being indoctrined and trained as terrorists.

In the evening we had a bbq beside Mount Zion (where Jesus will return someday). Later a few of us went back into the Old City to soak it up. We got lost in the maze of streets and eventually made our way to the Western/Wailing Wall. I think we can us the word 'epiphany' too easily but this was definately a moment of emotion and wonder. At night it is beautifully lit with hundreds of Jews worshipping with their body and soul. I said some prayers for friends at home.

Day 8
Like I have said this trip is incedibly diverse. They told us about the flood of Sudanese refugees that have been flooding into Israel from Darfur and from the south of Sudan. They are escaping the government sponsored genocide there. Thousands of Christians and non-Arabs (black moslims) have been killed and millions displaced by the Sudanese government. They are flooding into Egypt and surrounding areas and often being persecuted there too. Hundreds have ended up in Israel and the Christian Embassy (which is what I am here with) are trying to look after them.

Anyways I persuaded a couple of people to take me to see a family that they are looking after. It is a Muslim family that walked barefoot through the Sinai Desert, through Egypt and into Israel. The wife was pregnant and just gave birth yesterday. I spent this morning talking brokenly with the father and playing with their beautiful kids.

This afternoon we went into the city of David and walked around walls that where built by David, Nehemiah and Hezekiah. We went underground into Hezekiah's Tunnels. This is a incredible maze of tunnels built by Hezekiah 1000 odd years BC to supply Jerusalem with water. It is a 45 minute claustopbobic walk through knee deep water by torch light....awesome!

Well that's me up to date. So much more has happened but I have to head off again now. I think I'm having the time of my life.

Israel/Palestine thoughts at present

My head is offically completely fried trying to get around the situation here. In my small group I kicked off a debate by saying the lectures we were going to were one-sided and not showing the full picture. Since then people keep giving me stuff to read and trying to get me to their way off thinking. The team are amazing though and do it with a heart of compassion for Israel and the Jews. And to be honest they are gettng through. One of the lads just said to me I'm the voice for the Palestinians on this tour. This is stupid cos I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, I just want to find some truth.

The more I listen to people the more I appreciate the plight of the Jews. From the time when Christians were murdering millions of them in the name of God while singing hymns, through the Spanish Inquisition, to the Holocaust where the church was only conspicuous by it's abscence in speaking out.

The Jews and have a victim mentality but then most of the time they seem to be the victims so they have a right. We have heard much about the nuclear threat of Iran and the surrounding Arab nations. As much as I have asked for balance the truth is that fanatical groups and governments of surrounding muslim countries have openly said that they want to wipe Israel off the map. Some of them refuse to give aid to Palestine or accept Palestinian refugees because they want to 'use Palestine as a baseball bat against the Arab nations'.

I came out here thinking that the media coverage at home was biased in favour of Israel and now and I'm not so sure. We are told constantly here that the world is against Israel, and some of the reasons they give ring true. The Israelis live in constant fear of terrorist attacks from home or abroad, and especially of a nuclear strike from Iran which is building the capabilities to strike a holocaust with one bomb. One of the lecturers said that world opinion has never been more against the Jews since the the time of the Holocaust and I find this hard to disagee with.

I haven't admitted this here and still find myself arguing for the Arabs but.... much as the Israelis have screwed up I find it hard to argue that they are a threat the leaders of some of the surrounding Arab countries.

I have so much more written down but no time to write it here.

It's clear to me that geographically (it borders Europe, Asia and Africa), religiously and politically, Israel is the centre of the world. I feel like a tit for thinking I had any idea about the Israelis and their role in this conflict before I came here.

Either way, as I walk the streets that Yeshua walked, I am sure that this is a Holy land.

Pics on flickr. Click on link right.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Day 2

Nazareth is interesting in that it is home to 35,000 Jews, 35,000 Christian Arabs and 35,000 Muslims and they all co-exist peacefully.

Today we went;
-for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
-to the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
-the church where he turned water into wine.
-where he had his last meal with the disciples.
-the place where he asked Peter did he love him.

Some people seemed affected but I didn't have any warm, fuzzy, spiritual experiences in any of these except in the beautiful scenery and landscape. However, it does provide a visual idea of the gospel stories. Standing at the Sea of Galilee it was easy to imagine Jesus standing with his mate Peter and asking him did he really love him.

We visited all these old sights and had 3 lectures today. Despite this my epiphany came from a conversation with an old Jewish lady. She had visited Belfast so we had common ground. She told me about the suicide bombs and murders of men, women and children before her eyes. Her stories gave me a feeling for the first time for the hurt that has been caused to the Jews by Palestinians. I know I will see the other side too.

Lectures are very pro-Israel Zionist. The guy tonight asked every one to put up their hands if they were a Christian Zionist and I was the only one that didn't. My heads is wrecked trying to sift through all the words and find find some black and white in the grey. Actually colour would be better, it gets depressing. I try to explain to people that I could take them to either side in Ireland and tell them of atrocities by the other side and convince them those they are with are in the right. As far as I can see in two days there is much evil and much good in the actions of Christians, Jew and Muslim in this region.

I'm going to find some colour.

Sea of Galilee

Where Jesus asked Peter did he love him (allegedly).

Church of the Beatitudes (Where Srmon on the Mount took place (allegedly!))

Day 1


Journey over was smooth enough. Got singled out by El Al for interrogation at Heathrow. I'd been told that they could stop me entering Israel if they thought I was going to Palestine so I told a mixture of economical truths and lies.

Spent all 5 hours of the flight chatting with the Jewish Rabbai next to me. He got all his textbooks and stuff out and made it his mission to educate me. Jews do not convert so he didn't try to evangelise I didn't evangelise him either. Topics of conversation included:
-Heaven and hell
-Being a Jewish Christian
-Secular v Orthodox

Taxi from airport took us through the valley of Armageddon (I wondered if I would return here someday!) and through to Nazareth. For 2 days we're staying in a hotel overlooking Nazareth and the Valley of Armageddon. It's an incredibly beautiful place. As our taxi driver said:

'Your Jesus for sure know where to live eh?'

Valley of Armageddon and Nazareth from our hotel

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Thoughts on departure

Had a great weekend for Gav's stag in Galway. It involved fishing, cross-dressing, eating, drinking and being merry with friends. Check out pics here!

Off to Israel tomorrow. Itinerary looks pretty good. For the first couple of days I'll visit all the places I've been reading about since I was a kid. The rest of the time is doing practical work in community centres/hospital and working with Jewish and Arab Kids.

However, it's the last two weeks of July I'm really looking forward. The West Bank adventure!

Despite obvious excitement about the trip, part of me doesn't want to be going away for a month. I'm leaving friends here who are hurting badly. It's impossible to make it any better for those struggling with the loss of a loved one, but at least you can be there.

This time last year I was helping Al and Lins to lead a team to Uganda. As I stood with Al at her grave today it hit me how different the world seems. Lins' passing has left a massive hole. Nothing makes sense, nothing seems to fit. As I travel the Middle East I'll be thinking of her in Africa, in cell, at Summer Madness, and I'll be thinking of those who were closest to her in Ireland.