For those of you who one day want to visit the Middle East, specifically Israel, you might find an interest in reading this. Those who do not have a desire to come to the “Holy Land” could still learn a thing or two.
One might wonder why I put the Holy Land in quotations? My experience here in Israel has been nothing short of amazing. With that being said, I find it hard to see this place as Holy when there is daily prejudice, racism, and an ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Jews, which some would call an apartheid. That may sound harsh, but unfortunately that is a reality here.
Each day Jewish people live with the constant fear in the back of their minds of whether or not they might die from a suicide bomber or rocket attack from Gaza. In contrast, Palestinian people are separated and caged in by a wall put up by Israeli Defense Forces. Israel justifies it by saying it is a security measure, even though the United Nations and European Union, among other important councils, have condemned it to be illegal.
These are just a couple of the complexities involving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict here in the Holy Land. A tour guide we had within the first couple of weeks said, “If a person were to come to Israel for a week he could write a book, if a person came for a month he could write an article, but if a person came for a year he could maybe write two pages.”
The idea is that the longer someone stays here and the more he knows, the more that person understands the complexity of the situation and realizes he doesn’t know anything.
Last week I stayed with a Christian Palestinian family in Bethlehem. Bethlehem lies is in the West Bank or Israeli Occupied Territory and is separated by the wall I mentioned before. Contrary to how the media portrays Palestinians as terrorist, they are perhaps the most generous, kind-hearted, and loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
A valuable lesson I have slowly been learning here is despite a person’s background we need to learn to love the “other” as ourselves. This is my prayer for my fellow JBU students and is a lesson that comes not from myself, but from the Word of our Lord. Coming here has truly opened my eyes to see that all sides have bloody hands.
As Romans 3:23 proclaims, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
You and I are no better than the next person and certainly no more deserving of God’s grace.
On a lighter note, if anyone has a chance to come here it is truly a life-changing experience. There are endless fun opportunities, many of which come from the Bible. I mean how many can say they have walked the streets where Jesus was born and crucified, floated in the Dead Sea, sailed the sea Jesus walked on, hiked up to King Herod’s palace in Masada, or swam in the very springs King David swam in?
Whether you are at JBU or elsewhere, I encourage you to listen and open your eyes to see what God is doing in your life.
Ilhamdilla (Thanks be to God).