Well, yes. In my case anyway. That’s what I did this morning. I woke up at 5’ish to see the valley of the Ramon Crater being washed in the rays of the sun. It was majestic to behold.
Then I went back to sleep for a couple more hours. I know that sounds lame, but I came to this desert in the first place to rest. I wanted a place from which I could “continue in stages” as Genesis says about Abraham’s own sojourn. Admittedly I have far more amenities than Abraham could ever imagine — excellent water pressure comes immediately to mind — but it’s the idea of pacing yourself for the journey.
Today with the arrival of our group from LaSalle Street Church, the trip turns in some dramatic ways. From this point on our centerpoint will be Bet’ Lehem, (yes, the same one). For those who don’t know, Bethlehem is a Palestinian town in the West Bank. As my lovely Jewish waitress said last night, “I don’t think I can go there.” That’s right. It’s one of the most divisive aspects of the partition of the land here — Israelis cannot visit some of the sites important to their faith. The land is divided into areas “A, B and C” each indicating what groups may enter legally. (Jericho is another example…as I exited Hwy. 90 to get to the ancient city the first sign reminded drivers that the area was forbidden to Israelis.)
If there’s one thing that can really make you feel hopeless its when people are refused the opportunity to know each other. To see the other.
That’s what the first week of this trip was all about for me. From now on, we will largely be in places divided by politics and ethnicity. We will travel with a Palestinian guide who couldn’t go to Tel Aviv to meet our group at the airport. We will meet residents of the West Bank town of Bet’ Lehem (Bethlehem) who only rarely can see their family in East Jerusalem — just 5 miles up the road.
We will look at the things that separate…and gratefully, a few people and organizations that are trying to unite. But it’s not easy. It requires you to actually see the other.
Throughout this week I’ve had this nagging thread I keep pulling. It comes from Paul’s description of Jesus, to the church of Ephesus: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
I have to say, Jesus has so often been the barrier, not the destroyer of it.
Examples: My Canadian hiker buddy (from the first night) told me how he hasn’t spoken with his brother in years…the brother “shook the dust from his feet” denouncing his relatives to hell for their unbelief.The turf wars that are experienced daily at the Church of the Nativity where 6 Christian traditions compete to worship in this holy space — each group literally (and often angrily) defending their square feet of alter space. And of course the deep divisions of this land – where religion plays such a central role in separating.
So today and throughout the next week I’m going to focus on where and how the way of Jesus could unite rather than divide; where the truth of Jesus could be heard and the life of Jesus be emulated.
And I’m not going to look at somebody out there doing it, I’m going to look at myself and ask myself that question. That’s another thing Jesus pushed me on this first week: It really does begin with me. You. Each one of us. That’s where peace starts. Not with issues, but with people.