This week has been astoundingly dense and deeply emotional. Two days into the trip I already felt like my experience had been worth the effort and expense. I had no idea how each of the following days would multiply that impression.
I’ve tried three times to start this update with a story from the trip, and each time I’ve found that the stories open onto a flood of other stories, questions and observations — it’s hard to be succinct when writing about an experience this rich.
So for now I won’t tell a story, I’ll just explain that though I knew before I came that this situation was profoundly complicated and intricate, I have found it exponentially more so than I could have imagined.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been struck by the strong sense that the intricacy of the issues does not excuse me from standing for justice wherever I find it to be lacking.
People of faith, especially those of the Abrahamic traditions (Christians, Jews and Muslims), have a duty to educate ourselves about the issue and advocate for just policies. Moreover, U.S. citizens have a duty to inform ourselves, given that we live in a democracy, and that we are paying a significant part of the cost of the occupation with our tax dollars. As Rabbi Heschel said, “In a democratic society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
We’ve had almost non-stop meetings and vivid experiences on this trip, from a briefing by the UN to conversations with right wing Zionists to visits in Palestinian homes slated for demolition by the government. We’ve walked through an Israeli checkpoint and talked with the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions.
All of it has broken my heart, but I hope and believe that those cracks are letting some Light in. If you’re one who offers prayers of any kind, I humbly request some for myself, as well as for the people of the Middle East.
You’ll notice, though (at least when I point it out), that when I said the conflict was complicated, I said “profoundly complicated,” not “hopelessly complicated,” as we so often hear. When we met with Abir Kopty this morning (a young Palestinian, human rights activist and Coptic Christian) she said “We learned, as Palestinians, ‘You are not allowed to lose hope. This is not your right.’”
To that, I say “Sah,” which in Arabic means “that’s right.” As Vaclav Havel said, “Hope is not prognostication, it is an orientation of the spirit.”