Journey to the Middle East
It’s been a week since I returned from my trip to the Middle East. And as I’ve jumped back into the normal flow of life, I’ve found myself wishing I could somehow hit the pause button on everything for a few days so that I could finish downloading and processing my experience. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to do that, so the next best thing is to carve out a little time here and there to journal, blog, etc… So this post will be my first stab at starting to unpack a few things.
Perhaps a good starting point is sharing a little about my trip…
A few months ago I was invited by my friend, Aaron Niequist, to join him and a handful of others on an “alternative tour” of Israel and Palestine. The purpose would be to dive deep into what is one of the most complicated and significant conflicts in the world. Our plan was to show up with wide open hearts and minds to simply LEARN. So for seven days, this small group of us traveled to a dozen or so cities and towns all over Israel and The West Bank to meet and get to know the stories of some pretty fascinating people who live their every day lives in the midst of this terribly complex conflict. People like…
A passionate and knowledgable Arab Sheikh named Ihab, who we had the privilege of meeting up with in East Jerusalem to hear his family’s story and learn about the faith that he is so beautifully and deeply devoted to.
Tamar, a beautiful and deeply spiritual Jewish settler living in northern West Bank settlement of Shilo (Mateh Binyamin).
A young Palestinian businessman from Ramallah named Abed, who recently moved back into the thick of the conflict in the West Bank after living and working in the US for several years.
Natan Sharoni, a retired Israeli army general who heads an organization called The Council for Peace and Security and who shared some insightful research and facts on Israeli politics and security.
Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian who leads a peacemaking organization in Bethlehem (West Bank) called The Holy Land Trust. Sami is an amazing brother who reminded us that non-violent resistance is the only solution for peace in the Middle East.
Two inspiring women named Robi and Moira, who we met up with in Tel Aviv. Robi is a Jewish mother whose son was killed by a terrorist sniper a few years ago. Moira is a Palestinian wife who lost her husband to an Israeli army bullet in 2010. Not only did both women so openly and honestly share the pain and grief of their loss, but they also showed us how they have risen above the conflict and joined together as a part of what’s known as The Parent’s Circle – a group of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families who are working together to support peace, reconciliation, and tolerance. (Here’s a pretty impacting video that documents the kind of work they’re doing. Thanks Aaron.)
What a journey… And these are just a few of the people whose stories I look forward to unpacking and sharing in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
And a must mention here is Todd Deatherage of the The Telos Group. Todd was an amazing host, guide, and educator to our crew. He is also incredibly smart and an extremely well rounded teacher of the Middle East conflict. Thank you Todd for a great journey!