Monday, February 18, 2008

West Bank Story

One film that is VERY much on my "to see" list is West Bank Story. The Academy Award winner for best live-action short of 2006, it's a 21 minute musical comedy based on West Side Story.

Here's a plot summary from one online article:
It’s Shakespeare on the Jordan River when two star-crossed lovers are forced to battle traditional Israeli-Palestinian conflicts with two unusual weapons - music and comedy - in the short film West Bank Story. The plot centers around David, an Israeli soldier, and Fatima, a beautiful Palestinian cashier, who are caught in a running feud between their families’ competing falafel stands in the West Bank. The film’s even-handed humor and insightful gags are specifically designed to break open old prejudices and allow audiences to see the potential for a peaceful outcome in the Middle East, which is often dogged by seemingly endless controversy.

. . .
[Writer/director Ari] Sandel and his creative team believed that the film’s success would hinge on its even-handed portrayal of Jews and Arabs in every aspect of the filmmaking. This balance included the number of jokes made at each groups’ expense, the number of real-life Arabs and Jews in the cast, and the number of shots that featured each of the characters. Even the music features an equalizing blend of Palestinian-style rhythms, Jewish Klezmer sounds, and American Broadway musicals.
To see a trailer for the film, hear some of its music, and buy a copy, visit A portion of the proceeds will go to these two charities:

Hand in Hand schools seek to spark revolutionary change in Israeli education and society by establishing a new educational paradigm: integrated, bilingual schools where Jewish and Arab children and their families learn and grow together. Hand in Hand's mission is to catalyze the creation of a network of integrated schools around the country, providing Jewish and Arab parents the option to send their children to schools where they can learn and interact with all their neighbors.

The Parents' Circle - Bereaved Families Forum is nearly 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the conflict. Yet they reject violence, traveling and speaking side by side to call on both peoples to reconcile in the spirit of peace. Always Arab and Jew together, they facilitate classroom Dialogue sessions in high schools, promote the "Hello Peace" telephone chat line for communication between Palestinians and Israelis, hold a summer camp for the children, and tour the Middle East and North America creating hope in the hearts of both peoples.

Go here to watch the first 4 minutes of the film.

Naomi Shihab Nye and Hebron Glass

Aside from epic poetry, such as Beowulf and Paradise Lost, I have three poets whose work I really love. Of those, Naomi Shihab Nye may be my favorite. A Palestinian-American, Nye grew up in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and San Antonio (Texas). Because of this diverse background, she brings a unique perspective to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the topic of American-Arab interaction and understanding. Many of her poems deal with the themes of cultural difference, war (esp. in Palestine and Iraq), violence vs. the domestic, and reconciliation. Nye challenges her readers to believe in shared humanity despite conflict and cultural and religious division.

The following is one of my favorite of her poems. Hebron glass, which the poem references, is handblown and painted by Palestinians. It is often used to make goblets, or other cups, and is some of the most beautiful glasswork I have ever seen.

The Small Vases From Hebron
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Tip their mouths open to the sky.
Turquoise, amber,
the deep green with fluted handle,
pitcher the size of two thumbs,
tiny lip and graceful waist.

Here we place the smallest flower
which could have lived invisibly
in loose soil beside the road,
sprig of succulent rosemary,
bowing mint.

They grow deeper in the center of the table.

Here we entrust the small life,
thread, fragment, breath.
And it bends. It waits all day.
As the bread cools and the children
open their gray copybooks
to shape the letter that looks like
a chimney rising out of a house.

And what do the headlines say?

Nothing of the smaller petal
perfectly arranged inside the larger petal
or the way tinted glass filters light.
Men and boys, praying when they died,
fall out of their skins.
The whole alphabet of living,
heads and tails of words,
sentences, the way they said,
“Ya’Allah!” when astonished,
or “ya’ani” for “I mean”—
a crushed glass under the feet
still shines.
But the child of Hebron sleeps
with the thud of her brothers falling
and the long sorrow of the color red.

(poem used with author's permission)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hope, in the ocean of darkness and death

Well, this is probably the only poem of mine that will ever make it up here, so enjoy.

This was written on a hard day, during a hard week, in an even harder month. A day when all of the ugliness of the world seemed to gather and press down, threatening to block out all light, all hope, all beauty. It was written in response to violence—specifically, the rape of a friend's younger sister. How does one live in a world where people hurt each other, and tear themselves apart? How does one find God?

This was part of my answer. My testimony of hope.

In the words of George Fox, the 17th century founder of Quakerism: "I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God."

And we pray, come Lord Jesus. Come.

A day for hope, October 3, 2007
For Kohleun, my fairy bright

Dust lavender brush bright
Fairy wings touch skin

Flutters, fights
Breathes she
asthma black breath in
dull, dark world

Two inches
Touch glory

Undone fly
All we are

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Poem for Childhood

This poem was written for a child who died.
For me, it draws images of all the children, in all the refugee camps, who never had a chance to have this. To experience life in all its simplicity and wonder. Never got to be children, or have a childhood.
All the children who grow old too fast.

Language at 19 Months
for Corbin and Karith

things are very simple here
yes means yes and no is flexible
we know this

pain hurts we do not want that
but when it comes we cry
i curl up somewhere and wait

you see laughter is sure to follow
we laugh because we’re happy
sometimes it’s hard to laugh alone

the sun is bright here
it burns my eyes and nose
a girl gives me her hat

she’ll be my friend forever
forever is longer than we’ll live
she’ll be my friend forever

there’s glitter here too
the darkness even sparkles

colors are colored a thousand times thick
someone smiled at me
her skin must have been layers and layers

and oh how i wanted to match
so i hugged her face with my hands
she left glitter on my fingers

a woman closes her eyes and talks to the sky
says she wants to see its face
i do

Sermon on the Mount

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
-Mahatma Gandhi

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

"Love your neighbor as yourself."


Thoughts from Mahatma Gandhi

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.

To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Gender, Peace, and Poetry

Just to give you a taste, here are two of my favorite poems from Kohleun's site, Poems From a Small Place.

Daughter, Who is Not Mine

They will try to divide you—body
cleanly from soul—and tell you
where your beauty lies.
No mosaic here,
no puzzle of pieces fit.
One loose shard, a fragment
of your being, will be
lovely and desirable.
They will prize and polish it
‘til it shines from wax and gloss.


Fill in the "h", the "u".
Tack on an "r" here and there.
Of course that's what they meant
to say. Uh huh. I know
how we were all there when
Christ fed the five thousand
(not including women and children).

A star for the wise men,
angels sent to shepherds, pastors
of the fields. Such light
that shown all around
as they proclaimed, "Peace
on earth, good will toward men"
(that explains a lot).

On that night a savior came
for whomsoever believes. The Son
of God, Son of Man.
Humble carpenter of Nazareth,
poor and not handsome--
like a lamb led to the slaughter is silent
(truly a woman's son).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Poetry for Women, Peace for All

My brother often tells me that there can be no peace for any, until there is peace for all.

That is why he is a feminist, but calls himself a humanist. Why he loves Israelis, as well as Palestinians, and why he reaches out to Americans, and not just Arabs. It is why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not more important to him than the genocide in Sudan or Uganda. And why he believes that his treatment of the lady in the supermarket is as significant as any anti-war protesting.

We are all connected.

I believe this too. But I find, in practice, it very hard to live.

In honor, however, of peace of all kinds, I would like to recommend that you visit Poems from a Small Place. Much of the author's poetry deals with gender, and the need to reconcile female identity with Christianity, culture, and all of life. The need to restore wholeness to the way we view food, image, and beauty. The need for peace amidst the clash of words like "important" and "insignificant." After all, who is to decide such labels? Who gets to assign such worth?

In the end, doesn't conflict come down to this? To the way we view each other. The way we determine value. The way we deny common humanity. It doesn't have to be overt to be real.

Prayer, Peace, Poetry, and Iraq.

Here's another poem. This one's a response to several churches in America setting 12:00 p.m. eastern time (9:00 a.m. on the west coast) as a national time of prayer for peace in Iraq.

The Arabic translates as follows:
The Adhan (the call to prayer)
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest)
Hayya 'ala-s-Salah (hasten to the prayer)
As-Salatu khairun min an-naum (prayer is better than sleep)

By Megan Buff

Allahu Akbar.
My watch beeps
As I sleepily roll
Out of bed and
Onto my knees.
Nine a.m.

Allahu Akbar.
I am on my face
With exhaustion now,
Praying for peace
In this crazy world.

Hayya 'ala-s-Salah.
Sitting up, I begin
My own prayer
In solidarity with
Christians everywhere.

As-Salatu khairun min an-naum.
This is the time set
And we all pray
For peace in Iraq.
In the world.

Allahu Akbar.
I bow my head
To my God
In supplication for
All God's people.

A Poem about Broken Pottery

This poem makes me smile. The back story is this: I went home (to Amman, Jordan) for Christmas, and brought an Arabic coffee set back for my roommate. It consisted of a coffee pot and four small cups, all made out of Palestinian pottery. Unfortunately, one of the cups met an untimely demise at the hands of a misplaced orange. Which was very sad. But the result is this poem, written by one of my good friends. Enjoy :).

by Megan Buff

the little palestinian
settles in
on the kitchen counter.
tiny blue & white tiles
reflecting life
in all its glory
of fragmented togetherness.

out of place, an orange
atop the cup,
also settling in.
orange from california
arab blue.
complementary colours?

suddenly the orange is
plucked up
for breakfast.
still attached.
the cup, too, flies
union with fruit
and wins at last.

the orange lets go,
the cup
squarely on harsh ground.
it shatters loudly --
blue &
white scattered
to all corners of the room.

beauty is fragmented
& the orange
falls. splits.
orange blood with blue pieces.
mingled in brokenness.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Economics of Life

Here's another post from Daily Rantings of an increasingly cynical Fish. I really don't know anything about economics, but this is a good prod to keep thinking and wrestling with the issues of the violent world we live in:

Dec. 8, 2007

Donkeys in Gaza, suicide bomber in Iraq, studying in America and Economic theories...

The past semester I have been taking a class on International Political Economics. Now, everywhere I look instead of seeing bad political policies I see bad economic policies coupled and enhanced with bad political policies. Instead of questioning why Bush contradicts his rhetoric about democracy, I question why he contradicts his rhetoric about economic liberal policies. I am awed by the strength and perseverance of Palestinians making their own work, downsizing from a car to a donkey, and I wonder is the Middle East a backwards underdeveloped society, or are we making it a backwards underdeveloped society?

I then see the article about the tragic suicide bombing in Iraq, and of course the sex of the bomber is emphasized before her act. Again, she did not commit a political act, she committed a vengeful act. Technically her act was not terrorism, for how can a woman commit a politically charged violent act, her act was to get revenge for the killing of her sons.

Then I question what does it matter...she still blew herself up. What type of a world do we live in where the only way people feel that they can have a voice is to blow themselves up?

I think of what my friends would say...of what my society would say being at a Christian school...we are not of this world...only Jesus can solve our problems. I sit quietly as I have been trained to do as a woman (or at least how people have tried to train me to act), and inside I am kicking, shouting and cursing. How can we so easily brush aside these problems as if we are unable to affect them?

Then I recognize if I want the world to change I have to change it. I have to choose a career that will allow me to change it. I've been slowly recognizing this for sometime now...which is why I'm an international studies major...why I study abroad...why I work for the's why I'm planning to go to grad school. Still, what will I do? how will I use my skills to change the world...I have no idea. I think I know what I want to do in grad school but I'm not sure. Whatever it is...will it actually help these people? Will I choose a career that will feed my wallet, or keep a person from blowing themselves up? Will I choose a career that will benefit me, or give a man in Palestine an opportunity to start his own buisness?

I guess it all goes back to economics. How do I see the world? Is it really zero-sum, or is positive-sum? Or is it negative -sum? I honestly don't know.

Bethlehem and the Wall, part 4

Some last reflections from my father's time in Bethlehem. Israel-Palestine, the wall, and identity cards:

Feb. 2, 2008

We had a powerful time this morning with Salim Munayer, starting with him sharing his personal story, and leading into his experience in reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis (with Musalaha,

A couple of questions from today:

What is a Christian–Christ-centered, true to Jesus, rooted in his life, character, teachings–response to / perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What do you do when your theology puts you with one group of people against another (e.g., plays favorites, exalts one group, and their interests, over another – e.g., Christian support of Israelis, while demonizing the Palestinians)? Can we find a theology that brings people together, brings reconciliation, rather than fosters hatred, strife, division? We need a theology that meets the needs of all people, not just one group (and will pastors dare to speak up?).

Do we believe God is a God of love, for all people? Do we believe in our calling as people of Jesus to love our neighbors, all people (even our “enemies”)? What impact should this make in the Palestinian-Israeli situation?

And then, a thought about the Wall:

For Jews, when confronting those who are different, they usually respond by separating themselves, building a “wall” around themselves and others. The physical Wall is an expression of that – dealing with others by separation (and note that American Christians are tending to do that, too). But this is very harmful, and cannot lead to reconciliation and peace.

On Identity Cards:

Another interesting (and troubling) aspect of the situation for Palestinians / Arabs is that of identity cards. It is very complex, and hard for Americans to understand. I still don’t understand it.

We met:

  • A Palestinian Christian leader who has a West Bank identity card. That allows him to travel in the West Bank, but not to Jerusalem, and not to any part of Israel. He can travel across the West Bank (King Hussein / Allenby Bridge) border crossing into Jordan, and fly out of Amman, but that’s the only way he can travel out of the West Bank. There are many people in this status who are separated from their families in Jerusalem (by identity, and by the Wall and the checkpoints which now keep them from crossing). (There are some West Bank Palestinians who are allowed to travel to Jerusalem, if they have special work permits; but those are hard to come by.)
  • The brother of the above leader, who did have the West Bank identity card, but was out studying Bible and Theology in the U.S., and had his identity revoked by Israel. When he tried to return, they refused him entry even to the West Bank (to his family, his home, his life). He was shut out for 7 years. Eventually he obtained U.S. citizenship, and now has returned to do Christian work in Bethlehem, as a U.S. citizen, a “foreigner” in his own place; and with the realization that at any time the Israeli government might revoke his (temporary) visa and cast him out permanently.
  • A couple of Palestinians who have Jerusalem identity cards. This is the “best” identity card for Palestinians, because it allows them to travel anywhere – Jerusalem, the West Bank, and even Israel. The thing is, they have to keep living in Jerusalem, or they will lose this valuable identity – e.g., if they go out for a number of months or more, to study abroad, they will be considered to have “left,” and will lose their identity and their right to go back to Jerusalem. So in a way they are “trapped,” just as the West Bank Palestinians are trapped in the West Bank.
  • A couple of Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship. They are considered “Israeli Arabs,” and not allowed (publicly, officially) to refer to themselves by their own self-identity as Palestinians, because Israel does not officially recognize the existence of “Palestinians” as a people. They can travel anywhere in Israel, including Jerusalem, and it seems to the West Bank, though we heard that Israelis (perhaps Israeli Jews) are not allowed in the West Bank, because of security issues. As I said, it is complex and hard to follow.

With an American passport (at least, if you’re not Palestinian with an American passport), it is fairly easy to travel anywhere; although, yesterday when we were being driven from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (a short drive of perhaps 10-15 minutes), at the Wall checkpoint they said we would all have to get off the bus and proceed on foot through the walking maze of points where they search your luggage and person, etc. It’s not that you can’t get through, it’s just a hassle; a hassle which any Arab going back and forth is subjected to every time s/he passes. Due to time constraints, we drove a different way to Jerusalem, where they just checked passports but didn’t make us go through a big search process (but the Arabs going that other way all were made to get off their busses and be thoroughly searched, even though their papers were all in order).

Anyone visiting the “Holy Land” needs to be sure to visit areas in the West Bank, meet Palestinians, and see what their lives are like.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Reading List

Recommended Reading on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict:
  • Ateek, Naim. Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation. Orbis Books, 1989. ISBN 088344545X
  • Burge, Gary M. Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians. Pilgrim Press, 2003. ISBN 0829816607
  • Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN 0743285034
  • Chacour, Elias. Blood Brothers. Chosen, 2003 (1984). ISBN 0800793218
  • Chacour, Elias. We Belong to the Land: The Story of a Palestinian Israeli Who Lives for Peace and Reconciliation. University of Notre Dame Press, 2001 (1990). ISBN 0268019630
  • Chapman, Colin. Whose Promised Land? Baker Books, 2002. ISBN 0801064414
  • Harlan, Mark. “A Middle Way in the Middle East: A third theological path through the Israeli-Palestinian thicket.” Christianity Today, April 2003.
  • Lutz, Charles P. and Robert O. Smith. Christians And a Land Called Holy: How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, And Hope. Fortress Press, 2006. ISBN 0800637844
  • Maalouf, Tony. Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line. Kregel Academic & Professional, 2003. ISBN 0825431840
  • Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage, 2001. ISBN 0679744754
  • Munayer, Salim J., ed. Seeking and Pursuing Peace: The Process, the Pain, and the Product. Musalaha, 1998. (
  • Sizer, Stephen R. Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon? InterVarsity Press, 2005. ISBN 0830853685
  • Weber, Timothy P. “How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend.” Christianity Today, October 5, 1998, pp. 39-48

Gaza, and a Boy's Face

Here's a link to another post about Gaza, tabula gaza: exists in a cage. I think it's just a good reminder that this conflict is not abstract. It's all too concrete. Too real. And it involves real humans, with real stories, and real faces. That fact doesn't change, regardless of how far away we feel.

The Wall

If you do not know what "the wall" is, you need to.
Here is a discription taken from B'Tselem's website:

In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel . In most areas, the barrier is comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides, at an average width of 60 meters. In some areas, a wall six to eight meters high has been erected in place of the barrier system.
This wall does not run along the border of Israel, but actually runs through the West Bank, separating families and villages. There are nearly 30,000 Palestinians living on the west side of the barrier, Palestinians who will now require permits to live in their homes which are in the West Bank, and will be completely cut off from the rest of their people. These statistics do not include East Jerusalem, where nearly a quarter of a million Palestinians live.

In July of 2004 the International Court of Justice condemened the wall as being illegal, and a major abuse of human rights:
In its conclusion, the court stated that Israel must cease construction of the barrier, dismantle the parts of the barrier that were built inside the West Bank, revoke the orders issued relating to its construction, and compensate the Palestinians who suffered losses as a result of the barrier. The court also called on the international community to refrain from assisting in maintaining the unlawful situation that has arisen following construction of the barrier, and to take legal measures to cease Israel's violations and to ensure enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel did not deny the charges. Instead, it simply claimed that human rights were irrelevant when dealing with the Palestinian people. It has ignored the court's ruling.

Bethlehem and the Wall, part 3 (too many thoughts and emotions)

Another reflection written by my father, who is currently in Bethlehem, Palestine. He's there with a D.Min. cohort from Bethel University, looking at issues of global and contextual Christian leadership, especially in the contexts of Islam and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They were (are) being hosted by Salim Munayer from Musalaha ("reconciliation") and Bethlehem Bible College:

Feb. 1, 2008

What to say? What to think? What to feel?

This afternoon we toured Bethlehem. Saw the massive Israeli settlement on an opposite hill, built beginning in the late 90s (when they were not supposed to build any more settlements, after Oslo), encroaching on Palestinian land (built on occupied Palestinian land), part of the building growth to cut off Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian populations in the West Bank.

We saw, in the shadow of the settlements, a Palestinian (Christian) housing development, built smack in the middle of Palestinian land, started a few years before the (illegal) Israeli settlement, and yet threatened by the Israeli government with demolition, because it is “too close” to the security fence (“protecting” Israelis from the Palestinians), and too close to the (illegal) Israeli settlement. What made it more poignant was, we were being guided by a Palestinian Christian (Elias Gharib), who happens to live in that threatened housing.

We toured a Palestinian refugee camp, which lays in the shadow of the Wall. Heard of the regular nightly Israeli incursions (they come through the big blue gate in their wall, in jeeps and other military vehicles), sometimes looking for Palestinian youth (older teens) they consider dangerous. How they will cordon off an area and go house to house through the walls of houses – they bang holes in walls, and go right in, searching for and sometimes finding and seizing teen boys. How the families sleep in fear that this will happen. If the boys are seized, they are taken off to prison, and held for 3 months (or more) without charge, and not to return home for 6 months (if things go well for the anxious family; it could be longer). We talked with Khulud, a 20 year old Palestinian refugee who is studying English Lit. at Bethlehem U., who when she was younger, went through this fear in regard to her 3 older brothers. She works as a volunteer at a center (Lagee Center) to work with refugee kids, teaching art and English and computer, giving them skills and a chance to process their experience with others. We saw some powerful pictures they took, expressing their dreams and also their nightmares. It was so moving.

We saw maps, too, of the West Bank over time, shrinking, the Israelis carving away more and more territory for their settlements and safe zones, leaving less and less to the Palestinians, and those scattered bits and pieces not continguous (what the Palestinians now have is down to only something like 40% of the West Bank).

Apartheid? An apt description – a wall surrounding people from people, creating cantons, in some cases running right through the middle of Palestinian areas (seemingly with the intent to drive the Palestinians completely out of one of the sides, the side too near to the Israeli population). To tell you the truth, Israeli treatment of the Palestinians seems like a mix of apartheid, the Warsaw ghetto, and American treatment of both Natives and African Americans. It’s shocking, distressing, and getting worse all the time.

And hearing from Palestinian Christians, like Salim Munayer and Alex Awad, brave and hopeful men who are patiently working in the midst of such a tough situation. And how Palestinian Christians feel abandoned or worse, by Christians in the West (who in their Christian Zionism often are or seem to be against all Palestinians, even Christians).

In searching for hope in this situation, I found myself asking, wrestling, what can I (we) do? What must I (we) do? There must be something, some action that can be taken...

Bethlehem and the Wall, part 2

Again, this is written by my father, who is currently visiting Bethlehem:

Feb. 1, 2008

I walked to the Wall this morning. It’s only perhaps 500 meters from Bethlehem Bible College, toward Jerusalem. It’s huge. The only time I’ve seen something like it was when I visited West Berlin in 1977, and saw the Berlin Wall up close. This one has the same sort of feeling, of being blocked out (or in). There are massive guard towers, with little windows in them, and I caught the face of a soldier looking down at me. I wonder what he was thinking?

There’s a big gate, too – I guess so they can drive through into Bethlehem, if they need to.

The wall is covered with graffiti, lots of it about freedom and justice (I'll have to write down some of them). Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Arabs, and Latinos, and others. Famous people, and local people. Some of them mention America (like, “thanks for helping Israel build this wall,” or mentioning how much American money was spent on the wall).

As I walked up and down, the wall looming over me (50 feet tall? Taller?), and stretching on and on, I couldn’t help but think of the wall of Jericho, and praying, “God, bring this wall down. Bring down this barrier between Israelis and Palestinians. Bring healing, forgiveness, reconciliation. Allow these people to learn to live in peace.”

Bethlehem and the Wall, part 1

My father, a university professor and anthropologist, is currently visiting Bethlehem. The following is a reflection he wrote yesterday:

Jan. 31, 2008
We drove today from Amman to Bethlehem (leaving heavy snow, driving through the balmy Jordan Valley, and then back up on the other side through Jerusalem, where there was also snow).

It was eerie, seeing “the Wall." As we passed through Jerusalem we saw it for the first time, from a distance. It threaded through the countryside, looking something like the Great Wall of China (though obviously not so big at that wall). Then we came to the check point to Bethlehem, and I was shocked – the wall, extending in both directions, large, ominous, imposing, separating. As we sat on the Israeli side, there was a banner on the wall, this wall built to separate peoples (of different ethnicity, different language, different religion), that said something about peace. It seemed ironic, to say the least – cheerful, hopefull, on a concrete barrier holding the “enemy” at bay. Is this what “peace” means – build a wall, keep the enemy, the radical “other,” out?

At Bethlehem Bible College we met (President) Bishara Awad, a kind gentleman. In chatting, I asked where he is from. Jerusalem, he said. But they moved here to Bethlehem in the ‘60s. Which was a mistake, he said, because now (that Jerusalem is annexed by Israel, considered part of Israel rather than the West Bank) he cannot visit Jerusalem, and family members in Jerusalem cannot visit Bethlehem. In fact, to travel out (e.g., to the U.S.), he has to travel to Amman (via the West Bank border crossing into Jordan), because he cannot travel out of the West Bank into Israeli territory.

Visiting Palestine is painful. The truth of how the Palestinian people are treated makes my blood churn, my head feel like its going to explode. Bishara said, it’s time for action; we need action. Writing letters to congressmen hasn’t helped. Educating people hasn’t helped. Still Israel steals land and houses, and builds the wall.

Something must be done. But what? God, I feel helpless… Jesus, what would you do, if you were here in Palestine today?