Marhaba! Rumor is that my grandmother called my mother who then told my dad who then told me that she was wanting to know if I was still alive. The answer is yes. :)
I apologize for not updating more, but at the end of a long day, words always seem like a chore to me. This is a shame, because I live for words. But onto the more important things.
I can’t remember exactly what I’ve told you all so far, but our time here in Bethlehem seems to just be getting started even though we’re nearly half way done. Emily and I are living and working together. Our homestay is a wonderful Arab Christian Palestinian family, and they’re going to be in Sacramento this June! Small, crazy world.
Our work at Musalaha in Jerusalem has also been good. Salim, the head hauncho, gave us an introductory lecture on reconciliation a few days ago, and outlined some of the work of the organization. The conflict here is what he calls intractable, meaning that it cannot be divided from the social, political and religious aspects of both Palestine and Israel. In other words, it’s really messed up. Musalaha acts as a Christian forum for dialogue; it’s programs try to build up self-confidence and mutual respect so that both sides can share their stories without the other feeling like it needs to justify itself. Musalaha actually receives funding from huge sources like Holland and World Vision because of their work. This is great because they only have 3 full time staff and 7 part time!
Most of the work that Em and I have done so far has been general maintenance (organizing storage rooms, making inventories, scratching UV paint from windows), prepping for their youth summer camps and international conferences, and I spent today transcribing a trauma conference tape into Microsoft Word.
One thing we’ve really been doing since arriving is learning. The conflict here is much more complex than I can even wrap my head around. Everyday I drive to work beside a massive concrete wall that is determined to separate two people groups with fear. There is blatant discrimination, racism, and fanaticism in this country. I have seen women harassed at checkpoints because because their ID Cards (not passports!) are green, not blue. Equally bad, the harasser is a 17 year old Israeli boy drafted into the IDF for 3 years without any other options.
One theme that has defined this trip is unity. Everywhere we go, we are being talked to, lectured on, commented at, or sung to on this theme. We see the cracks in the system after a mere 4 weeks here. Neither side knows that the other side wants peace. Each side is demonized. Not even the church is united; here in Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity almost fell in because the denominations couldn’t agree who would pay for it. The Palestinian Authority finally stepped in–yep, read that: the organization deemed near-terrorist by Western media is the one who fixed the church. This is the organization who is thinking about recognizing Christmas, and refuses to recognize Easter. The church should be taking a strong stance in the community as a beacon of love and hope and peace. Musalaha’s main mission is reconciliation in the Christian community, and I have certainly seen how desperately this is needed.
I will update again soon. Tomorrow we are learning about Palestinian Christians, who make up about 40% of Bethlehem and about 20% of the West Bank.
If you need quicker updates or get concerned about something you see or hear in the news, feel free to pester my dad :) I communicate with him almost daily.
Love from the Middle East,