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A beginning report from the Holy Land ...

     Since returning from my journey to the Holy Land, my reading habits have changed a bit.  In addition to other sources and sites, now I turn to the Palestine News Network to find current news among a people and within a land I have visited for three weeks but expect to carry in my heart the rest of my life.

 

     I'll tell you in a minute what I saw on PNN.

 

     Bur first, to review:  I traveled to the Holy Land as part of the sabbatical leave generously granted me by the church.  After an unforgettable weekend in Jerusalem, I spent ten days in the JAI (Joint Advocacy Initiative) Olive Harvest Program of Palestine.  This program is superbly organized and led by the JAI of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine.  The United Church of Christ has long supported these international youth organizations.  I first learned about the program by contacting Peter Makari of the Global Ministries staff of the UCC. 

 

     Following my time in Palestine and joined by Paul and Vickie Williams (who also participated in the Olive Program) I walked The Jesus Trail from the Old City of Nazareth to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

 

     I will be absorbing and speaking of this experience for a long time to come.  In this space, however, I focus upon the experience I gained by living for ten days under the military occupation of Palestine.  I experienced the vast and oppressive ugliness of the Separation Wall.  I had military rifles pointed at me at checkpoints.  I witnessed the harassment of Palestinian citizens going about their daily life:

children moving daily through armed check points to attend school;

businesspeople opening their shops despite extensive road closures and blocked access;

daily commuters negotiating long detours because of the Wall and hours-long delays caused by numerous checkpoints;

farmers stopped by army personnel and challenged by Israeli settlers when traveling to their own olive orchards or walking the streets of Palestinian communities;

our tour bus driver pulled over while driving up a hill, ticketed for using too much gasoline in his bus, and commanded to get off the road within two hours.

 

This is a partial list.

 

In short, for a few short days I tasted the life of being fenced-in, humiliated, delayed, detained, checked and watched.  This is the life of Palestinians in the West Bank.  This is the situation in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.  This is the condition experienced by Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.  I am astounded by their patience, spirituality, determination and hope.

 

And what, you may wonder, did I read in the Palestine News Network?  Posted on November 2 was the story of 71 Bedouins (including 35 children) rendered homeless when their tiny cluster of fragile homes (called Khan al-Amar) was demolished by Israel.  The Bedouin homes were there because Bedouins have been banished from the sizable desert region of eastern Palestine (Why?  "Security").   The tiny Bedouin homes sat in the shadow of a large illegal settlement (Ma'ale Adumim) which continues to expand contrary to international law.  If you check the Palestine News Network, you can see the photo of Kahn al-Amar and Ma'ale Adumim.

 

I have returned home from my journey to the Holy Land grateful, spiritually inspired, and newly-sighted about life in Israel and Palestine.  I am eager to share my experiences and I am eager to continue learning more.  I look forward to the weeks and months ahead as opportunities arise to share what I saw, listen for your responses and questions, and seek together the ways that make for peace.

 

May God help the people of Israel and Palestine build peace so that, once again, blessing will come to the land of milk and honey.

 

Rev. Diane  Dulin

 

 

 

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