I'm here with a group from my dad's university, doing an "alternative tour," which basically means that instead of the tourist sites, we're here to see the peace and justice sites -- to meet with those working in the areas of reconciliation, non-violent resistance, and human rights.
The trip has been mindblowing.
Yes, I've been in Israel before. Yes, I've been in Bethlehem before. Yes, I've worked in refugee camps. Yes, I've seen the separation barrier. But this is so much more. I've seen the bones and barbed wire of the conflict, but this has been a trip about the living flesh -- the people and organizations dedicating their lives to resolving the deep, complex, and tragic issues facing this region.
I have been challenged, I have been stretched, and I have been encouraged.
Someone asked our group today how we've been responding to what we've seen -- how we're holding up to the weight. For me, the answer is that for the first time in a long time, I have hope.
I don't want to minimize the suffering, injustice, and pain, of which there is much. But at the same time, there seems to be an alternative. Not yet on a national or international level -- and there are still moments where it seems that such a step would be impossible -- but on the personal level, where there are relationships forming, peacemakers coming forth, and whole networks of Palestinian leadership rejecting violence . . . maybe this is a step towards the future.
One of the rabbis we met with (a member of Rabbis for Human Rights) made the statement that if you just know the facts -- what's happening on the ground -- you're going to get bitter and give up hope. We, he said, are not bitter, because we see what's happening, and we've chosen to act. We have hope.
May his hope be ours.