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