a time for peace

– standing against occupation

a palestinian…

If asked a year ago for the first word that came to mind when I heard the word Palestinian… I might have said “terrorist.”  Today I would answer something quite different.  As I prepare to leave Bethlehem tomorrow, I want to introduce you to some of the Palestinians I have come to know, who have been part of my life just about everyday. Palestinians, I now call “friends.”

The first Palestinian I met was Majdi, the shop owner at our corner. Our first majdiday here, Niina and I were walking down the street in search of a bread shop and he came running out of his shop, insisted we get into his car, and he drove us to the best bakery shop in town! Since then I’ve learned Majdi adopts the EAs and always has a cup of coffee or tea ready to refresh us on our journeys past his corner shop.

clemenceThen there’s Clemence, whose home is directly next to the wall near the car gate. She was a teacher in the Beit Sahour Lutheran School and she did her best to teach me Arabic, poor woman! But more than that, she taught me about the culture and the ways of the people here, so I would not look foolish even if I couldn’t hold a conversation.  She took care of me like a good mom!

elias eliElias was our main taxi driver, and our relationship became one of the nicest surprises of all.  Driving us home one night he invited Dirk and me to come with him to have a beer and meet his friends. His friends became our friends as we had many dinners together –eli.jeanette at their homes, and out for pizza. They shared their lives, their hopes and dreams, and their struggles with us – teaching us much about the lives or ordinary Palestinians.  Since that night, Eli has not only taken us all around the area, he’s taken me many places that he, as a Palestinian, was nervous about going.

Cafe Sima is our favorite coffee shop – Sima was trained at the Cordon sima and momBleu in Paris as a pastry chef and her cafe is filled with delicious treats, as well as wonderful salads, soups, crepes, and quiche – and all kinds of coffees. What a blessing this little get-away has been!  Plus Sima’s mother, who works in the shop is a highly educated business woman who is a delightful lunch companion!

Finally, I must include the man who runs the small grocery shop just Abu Amil. sondownthe block, Abu Amil.  Although we didn’t shop there all that often, (in these shops there are no fresh foods, just staples) every time we walked past – sometimes three or four times/day – he or his son or wife, would wave and call out to us, so we would stop and check in to let them know what was happening. Day or night I felt safer, knowing they were watching for me as I walked their street.

Everyone of these folks (and many more I don’t have time to introduce you to) knew I would only be here for three months. And they knew I was an American, which means I was somewhat of a culprit in the on-going Occupation. Yet they opened their hearts with warm hospitality and genuine friendship to this stranger in their midst.  They watched over me, listened to me, laughed and cried with me.  They shared their struggles and they taught me what I needed to understand.  They were gentle and kind as they expressed their impatience with American/Israeli policies.

They became a part of my life as they helped me do my job, encouragingme on the wall bigme to take risks,listening to the stories of my adventures, welcoming me home from scary places, and then they shed tears as we said our goodbyes. As I leave tomorrow, I do so with sorrow that I am leaving some good friends to deal with the difficulties here without me – and I am grateful we had a chance to introduce them to Team 29 who will continue to join the struggle with them.  And I pray that God’s Holy Spirit bind them together in the same love we now share.
peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

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November 16, 2008 Posted by | Christians, Occupation, Palestine, peace | 5 Comments

come Obama, change my life

This plea from Israel appeared in CounterPunch on November 6, 2008 – it’s too good not to share!

By Edna Canett, of Machsom Watch, an Israeli group of women who monitor the checkpoints on the Jerusalem side.

Obama my dear, they tell me that you are going to change the world. Do me a favor, come and change my life personally.

Come to Israel, grab its stupid leadership by the throat and take its foot off the neck of another people. Come and force us to do what is clear, and written, and fitting, and necessary, come and get us out of the Territories, if necessary do it with a smile that reveals million-dollar teeth. If necessary bare your teeth and force us to do it.

Make it so that I don’t have to get up in the morning – I who hate to get up early, to go to the checkpoints, to watch and to weep. Make it so I will not have to see 19-year-old children who have been duped into believing that they are defending the home front by pointing rifles at five-year-old children.

Make it so that when my daughters take a shower for half an hour I don’t have to think about Ayad’s family from Awarta that puts buckets under all the washbasins in order to reuse the water which is more precious than gold. Because the settlements need the West Bank’s water more than the Palestinians do.

Make it so that when I sit in a traffic jam I don’t have to think about the vast numbers of cars that are standing at the entrance to Tul Karem while each one is checked by soldiers and dogs because there has been a warning that they’re about to blow up Tul Karem.

Make it so that when my sister urgently rushes to the hospital to give birth and when I rush my husband to the hospital practically with red lights flashing, I don’t have to think about the women giving birth and the heart patients and the wounded people who are stopped at the entrance to Nablus because their vehicle has no permit to enter.

Make it so that when I see a soldier in uniform on the street I do not wonder what he did last night. What house he entered in a “Straw Widow procedure”,* what boy he beat up in the alleys of Hawara because he smiled the wrong way.

Make it so that in the morning I don’t hear the satisfaction in the voice of the radio newsreader who relates that the IDF has killed six terrorists.

Obama my dear, this autumn I did not go to the olive harvest. It didn’t work out. Please make it so that I will not suffer from pangs of conscience because I am not doing enough. That I am living my own good life, pursuing my career, while for the other people just to get home safely is a career in itself.

Please relieve me of this pain that I have all the time deep in my belly. It never lets up, I can never really enjoy life, children, friends or work, because my mind is preoccupied with the image of the shepherd in Baq’a standing by the locked gate and shivering with cold because the redhead with the key has not showed up, and the bound blindfolded boy, and the three-year-old girl who got hit on the head by the carousel at the checkpoint, and the barriers of dirt and the concrete blocks that stop the lives of so many people from flowing smoothly.

 Come, Obama, come and save us from ourselves.

 And if that is what they mean when they say you are not a friend of Israel, then don’t be a friend. We have already had friends who arm us and justify every horror we carry out and save us from the international courts. Be a true friend. Save us from ourselves. And don’t do it for the world, do it only for me, so I can have peace. You owe it to me. I do not believe in God but still I prayed for you.

 *The IDF practice of forcibly occupying private Palestinian homes temporarily, for tactical purposes – translator

Edna Canetti wrote this for MachsomWatch. The piece was translated from Hebrew by George Malent 

November 12, 2008 Posted by | children, Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace, women | 2 Comments

neve shalom/wahat al-salam…

…/Oasis of Peace is a village southeast of Tel Aviv that is an intentional community made up of Jews and Palestinian Arabs, all with Israeli citizenship. Since the 1970’s 50 families have come to live in this small area, families who are devoted to peace and living in respectful relationship as both the healthiest way to bring about peace between people, and as a model for the rest of Israel/Palestine. I spent some time with them last week… walking the streets, meeting the residents, visiting the schools, and seeking out their spiritual center.  These are folks who are committed to finding solutions to the problems that arise between those who are fundamentally different yet who have so much in common. And it is working.

Children come to the Peace School from the village and all around this agricultural area.  The schools teach both Hebrew and Arabic and they do it well because the teachers are native speakers!  The students learn the histories, traditions, and cultures of both people and they share their thoughts and feelings about one another with mutual respect. Their families are neighbors and their parents speak well of one another.  Could it be so easy to live as friends??

The pluralistic spiritual center is located on the edge of town, on a beautiful hillside. The entrance is a courtyard of a Meeting, Prayer and Study House with space for Muslim prayer on one side and Jewish synagogue teaching on the other, with a small kitchen they share so they can offer hospitality to everyone who finds a way to their door.  Plus there is a separate House of Silence a bit further down the path. Around these structures are lovely nature paths for hiking or strolling that I enjoyed as I prayed and listened for God’s presence.  Could it be so easy to find peace??

There are plans to expand the community to include up to 140 families here. But they are trying to determine how to add families who will fit well into the life of peace that can sometimes get difficult when something happens in the larger countries of Israel and Palestine.  It is really not as easy at it appears at first glance.  But these folks are committed, with every part of their daily lives, to making peace become the reality now and for their children.

At a time when Israeli-Palestinian relations seem to be at a new low, here is a village whose people still believe their engagement together in peace programs and intentional living can offer the hope needed so badly in the Mid-East.  Jesus says, “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)  May these children always know the blessings of their God as they work for peace!

salaam/shalom/peace – Pastor Pat

November 3, 2008 Posted by | children, Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace | 2 Comments