Heather and I have recently returned from a (roughly) 10 day trip to Israel and Palestine. Along with the other associate pastor from Sea Island, the three of us lead a group of 29 people through the Holy Land, visiting a number of historical and religious sites along the way. Well, Heather and Jack lead the group, I helped with some of the logistics when we were delayed for two days (Thanks United Airlines). Anyway, it’s taken me almost a month to sit down and unpack all the events of the trip. I’m going to try to walk through this trip a day or two at a time, along with pictures and some details.
We arrive in Israel on Monday morning and traveled by bus to Tantur, our home base. Tantur is in a wonderful location, overlooking Bethlehem and very close to Jerusalem. When Heather and I traveled to the Holy Land in 2005, we also stayed at Tantur, though they have started catering to more groups than when we were first there.
After lunch and a short rest to clean up, we headed out by bus again for a tour of East Jerusalem with a guide from Rabbis for Human Rights. Our first stop was a school serving Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. This school has been seriously impacted by the construction of the separation wall. The wall actually cuts off the school from the children and neighborhoods that they serve. What was most striking to me was how much this school looked like the school at our church, except for the razor wire.
After visiting with the nuns at this school, we hopped back on the bus to travel to a Bedouin village. The Bedouins are discriminated against in much the same way that the majority of Palestinians are in Israel. In this case, the Bedouins were removed from their homes and sent to live in this small village. The village backs up against the municipal garbage dump for Jerusalem. In this little village, there is still a lot of hope. We visited with a young Bedouin woman who operates a small school for village children. The school is little more than four walls, the roof is ill-fitting and certainly doesn’t keep out the weather. But the inside of the school is filled with children’s art and a few books. Not much, but when you have so little, every little thing can be a spark of hope. We did not take pictures of the school out of respect, but it looked much like the rest of the village, here:
Lots more for later…