There are moments in every pastor’s life when you sit back and look around and are in awe at what God has done. 3 years ago when I first visited the Holy Land, I knew that God was asking me to work for peace and justice here in this place. I had very little idea what that would look like and it scared me. It meant being a voice and standing up and putting my own self at risk of ridicule and scorn. I haven’t done all that I could do in the last 3 years. Yet last night, as we sat in a large circle on the patio of our hotel with sirens and helicopters as our background, the balmy breeze cooling off the day, our group processed the day and began to ask the hard questions; and in that moment I saw a little of what God has done through me in the last 3 years. Finally, I had brought people here, to this place that instantly felt like home to me and they are hearing the stories I heard and they are wrestling with many of the same questions and they are hearing the call to work for peace. The reality is, no one person can make peace happen, we can each do something, but until the collective voice of people outside this land raises up, peace will be elusive. So these two weeks, the Spirit of God is working in the hearts and minds of 19 pilgrims creating peacemakers.
Yesterday we began early to avoid the heat of the day at the City of David just outside the Old City. Hiking the tunnels was an awesome experience and sitting next to the Pool of Siloam and remembering the story of Jesus healing the blind man was amazing. Then we heard from the people of Silwan, an Arab neighborhood that is in the shadow of this archeological site. It is heartbreaking to hear of the struggles they go through even though they are part of Israel. They live in substandard conditions, they struggle to do the simplest things, they find their way blocked at nearly every turn by the government.
Then we traveled from East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem, a stark difference. It is like going from Tijuana to La Jolla in the matter of minutes. When we traveled to Mt. Herzl we heard from a former Israeli soldier about his service and the work he now does for underprivileged youth in Jerusalem. We ended our day with a visit to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum. It was a powerful experience for us all and provided us with a deeper and broader picture of the conflict here.
This morning we head to Bethlehem where we will hear more about the birth of Jesus, talk to more peacemakers, visit the contested city of Hebron and open ourselves further to the Spirit of God. Amazing things are happening within this small band of pilgrims and I hope, in a small way, we are making a difference through our willingness to listen to those we encounter.