Tag Archives: Israeli-Palestinian conflict

God at the Wall

It’s been a few weeks since my trip with The Global Immersion Project to the Middle East. I’ve shared some of my initial thoughts about the Lives of Unwarranted Compassion I witnessed, along with the realization that this peace process Starts With Me. Now I’ve moved on to the hard writing–sharing stories.

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If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know I’m pretty comfortable (perhaps bordering on too comfortable) writing about myself–my own spiritual highs and lows and faith journey. I find it much harder to write about controversial topics or actually give an opinion about anything. The thought of sharing stories from Israel and Palestine (West Bank?/Occupied Territory–even the name is controversial!) scares me because I don’t know where people stand–how much they know about the conflict, what their religious/political/idealogical/eschatological bent may be. I haven’t even figured out what I think about all of this. And yet I had the incredible opportunity to actually GO to the Middle East. To meet Jews and Muslims and Christians. To hear about the horrors of the Holocaust from survivors, to meet with present-day Palestinian refugees, to learn from peacemakers who see the peace process as something deeper and more challenging than signing a piece of  paper or hammering out a One- or Two-State solution. 

We hear so many stories of violence and despair and centuries old conflict in the Middle East that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Before I joined with The Global Immersion Project, I would have turned off the news and thrown my hands up in futility. What could I do anyways? How could I even begin to understand such a entrenched conflict? It’s all too much. 

When I traveled to the Middle East, I met people fully immersed and affected by the conflict. People who don’t get to turn off the news and ignore it–even if they’d like to. But for me, the immense magnitude of the conflict was not the most salient point I carried home with me, but the immense magnitude of the hope and the joy and the space for transformation and reconciliation that this conflicts opens up. Since joining with TGIP, I’ve come to realize that as followers of Christ we’re actually called to enter in to conflict to transform it, to make peace, to bring the Kingdom in all its wholeness and glory into the world we live in today.

As a staunch conflict avoider, this is terrifying for me.

But I feel so honored that I could spend 10 days with peacemakers who are living this out in the most costly and courageous ways, that I can’t help but share their stories.

I will be writing about issues that may or may not push all the wrong (or right) buttons. At this point I don’t even know what’s controversial anymore. Wherever you stand, please know first and foremost, I want to share where I personally saw God moving in the Middle East.

I want to share the stories that most resonated with my heart. That most pointed to the existence of a God of reconciliation. Whose very heart is to reconcile us to Him. To reconcile us to ourselves, each other. The earth.

Well, this was probably way too long of an introduction to my first story that doesn’t even need a disclaimer, but oh well, some later posts will. Without further ado, here is my first story of where I saw God moving in Israel.  And I hope to be getting back to posting once a week.

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The place: The Western Wall, near the Temple Mount, Old Jerusalem. 

TGIP Winter Learning Lab-114

Women rock to their rhythmic prayers. I sit insecure. Fiddling with my hands. Not sure which prayer to whisper. To open or close my eyes. It’s not my wall. It’s not my tradition.

I rack my brain for Torah scriptures. For some monumental verse that will immediately put God in the right perspective.

“What are you speaking to me?” I ask. “What do you want me to know about the Jewish tradition and what it means for me as a Christian now?”

A teenage girl sits a few feet over. She’s rocking and murmuring prayers obediently. I feel like an impostor.

The rocks of the wall are huge. Not what I had pictured. There are a few rolled prayers tucked into the crevices. But mostly it’s just sandy Jerusalem stone staring back at us. Super-sized bricks stacked to the sky.

People are rocking, but there’s no wailing.

I touch the cold wall. Brace myself for the mystic power. This wall that is closest to the where the Holy of Holies was. This wall is the last remnant of the Jewish Temple that dates back to King Herod. I feel reverence. Awe. Not really for the stone, but for the people who experience God this way. For the people who show up day after day to pray. Who live the reality that sometimes God speaks. And sometimes it feels like you’re talking to a cold wall.IMG_4390

And still they come. The faithful. Like showing up week after week to church. Together. Standing in worship or bowing our heads in prayer even when we don’t feel the rhythm.

Then I hear God speak.

“I love you. You are all my children.”

I fumble in my bag for my notebook and pen, rushing to capture His words.

The girl next to me casts me a sidelong glance, intrigued or offended by my non-Jewishness, I cannot tell. I finally dig out my notebook and pen. I start to write His words, what I felt/knew I heard. As I take the cap off my pen, turquoise ink spills everywhere. Dying my page, my hands. The girl looks over again. I blush, feeling more irreverent than ever. It’s not even a dignified black ink or even a Jesus-red, but bright blue. My hands are stained, like I’ve come to finger paint at the Wailing Wall. At this spot closest to the Holy of Holies.

The girl is staring now. I give an embarrassed shrug and angle my chair away from her. I bow my head and pray into my turquoise hands. I barely get out a, “God…help.” when I feel a tap on my shoulder.  The Jewish girl is asking for my attention. Our eyes lock. She hands me a tissue. I gladly receive the tissue along with her understanding smile. She turns back to her rhythmic prayers. I blot off the ink. Grab a new pen and write the words,

“I love you. You are all my children.”

 

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Send me on a Global Immersion

Hello! I’ve missed you. Missed this.

Today I am posting for the first time since coming back to the States to tell you that I’m leaving again. No, I’m not moving again. My heart and my feet are planted firmly back here in San Diego.

But I am excited to tell you that I’ll be traveling to the Holy Land for two weeks at the end of February. 

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I don’t know much the about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the politics or the history–besides the colorful maps that accompanied the pink Precious Moments Bible I had as a kid. I do know it is a region of great hope and expectation as well as a place of injustice and pain for Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide. I don’t know much, but I want to learn more.

Israel is a far cry from salsa dancing and mangos, but my desire to go stems from the same goals that led me to Central America. I’m excited to search for the bright spots. To learn from men and women who are seeking third ways and actively working toward peace. To open my heart to yet another region of the world in order to more thoughtfully and intentionally care for those in my immediate world.

When I was in Guatemala last year I was very lucky to live with a family that taught me so much about how to engage thoughtfully in really complex and overwhelming problems—poverty, civil war, genocide. They introduced me to the idea of choosing a third way in a conflict, not taking sides, but being pro-peace. Throughout my year in Guatemala, I met some courageous and creative men and women who are working to bring hope and peace to their communities.

I’ll be joining with a unique learning community made up of men and women who span the spectrum of society to learn and travel together to the Holy Land. The experience is being guided by The Global Immersion Project (TGIP), a humanitarian organization that seeks to cultivate peacemakers through immersion in global conflict. TGIP has carefully developed a network of Israeli & Palestinian leaders and friends who will help train us for the work of local and global peacemaking.


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Our cultivation will take place in three phases: (1) Understanding; (2) Exposure; and (3) Integration. The Understanding phase has already begun as our learning community is exploring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as developing a practical grid for everyday peacemaking. The Exposure phase will occur from February 28-March 9 on the ground in the Holy Land and will involve shared tables & friendship-making with the everyday peacemakers embedded within the conflict. The Integration phase will help us to process and learn from our journey as a whole while gaining the necessary resources to live as everyday peacemakers within the familiar soil of our North American contexts.

I’ve had the opportunity to do some grant writing for TGIP this past year, and I have been struck again and again by their thoughtfulness, integrity, optimism, and commitment to peace. There’s no one else I’d rather learn from or journey with to the Holy Land. Plus, one of my bestest friends and favorite processing pal—the daughter of the couple I lived with in Guatemala—is going too. Icing on the cake.

As you know, I am someone who longs to participate, locally and globally, with God in His work of restoration & reconciliation. I view this experience as an environment where God’s cultivation of me will further focus and fuel His just and compassionate reach to others through me. Would you prayerfully consider financially investing in my growth in this way?

The entire cost of the experience is $3000 + flight. All donations are tax- deductible and will be processed through TGIP’s organizational sponsor: a registered nonprofit called Thresholds.

To contribute financially to TGIP via Thresholds’ secure website:

1. Please go to: www.thresholdscommunity.org/, click “Contribute”, then choose the “Give Online” option. From there, select my name (the first one–woohoo!) from the pull down list of people and projects. (To reach this page directly, click here.) You will receive an email confirmation of your gift that can also be used for tax purposes.

2. To give by check, please go to the “Contribute” page on Threshold’s web site. From this page, under the “Give by Mail” section, you will be able to print out a pledge card and return it with a check made payable to “Thresholds” at the address given. You will receive a printed receipt from Thresholds for tax purposes.

I also welcome your prayers and encouragement, questions and feedback. I’ll be posting updates and musings here and would love you to journey with me here on my blog or over coffee or chai tea lattes or Skype dates.

Thanks for your love and support,

Aly

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