Saturday, February 10, 2007

Initial Feelings

My Holy Land trip and subsequent jet lag combined with extreme laziness – and the advent of the new spring semester – notwithstanding, I have not taken care to update this thing. Given my love for writing, rest assured that I have sufficiently reprimanded myself.

So, the Holy Land. Right. Some call it Palestine, some Israel. Perspectives on geography bring about an interesting dynamic in this region, with many Israeli maps showing a vast empty space in the region of the Palestinian West Bank – “Samaria” in the ancient world – as if there is nothing there but a vast desert. Conversely, some Palestinian maps name Israel “Unoccupied Palestinian Territories.” Who’s right, who’s wrong? As much as I want to say “both, in some ways,” it just doesn’t work that way.

I must confess that I had an obvious leaning before I went on this trip, and my opinion was only confirmed and strengthened after seventeen days in this volatile region. But that, in many ways, matters not. Some experiences are visceral and leave little to interpretation. They are what they are.

When you enter Bethlehem, the city of our Savior’s birth, you must pass from Jerusalem through a 25-foot wall that will soon surround the entire city. A modern and perverted twist on an ancient idea promises security to the people outside the city walls, while choking the people within. This Wall, Barrier – whatever you want to call it – separates much of Israel from its occupied land, in many instances crossing into the West Bank itself, sometimes separating people from their neighbors, their land, etc…

Crossing the Jordan river from the Kingdom of Jordan to the State of Israel, I had the sense that I was crossing from Mexico to the United States. A developing nation, Jordan has all the signs of countries in the 2/3 world – main roads in rough shape, visible, endemic poverty – and it is bordered by other countries that are in similar economic situations, and are similarly, predominantly Arab. Israel, on the other hand, is a solid member of the developed, industrialized world, and it shows. The highways are paved, signs of poverty well-hidden.

Bordering many Palestinian villages in the dry climate are Israeli settlements – “Oases in the Desert”, as one billboard proclaimed – that feature spacious swimming pools and ornate water fountains. They resemble upscale suburban gated communities, except that one needs only drive five minutes out of the heavily-guarded gate to encounter extremely poor (and dry) communities.

I guess it’s hard to hide my sentiments with respect to the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” I don’t pretend to be objective. All I know is what I have seen and experienced, and I will continue to relate that in future postings (with more regularity, I promise!). So, understanding that this is a sensitive topic, I will try to be fair-handed with my observations (especially sobering when many of my conclusions pointed me to inequities all-too-present in the United States). But I can only be honest.

The “Holy” Land proved too many times to be anything but. Yet it is a land in which many people place their dreams, hopes, and futures. Praying for “peace” takes on a whole new meaning, especially when so much pain and devastation rarely stops:



At 11:12 AM , Blogger Meow said...

Keep writing! I'm so interested to hear more.

BTW, was a brother of yours in a Reno, NV airport today? DearlyBeloved just called and swears he saw an older version of you.


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