What a day it was. Halfway through, many in our group of twenty felt that we couldn't take much more. We'd heard heart-shattering stories of Palestinians being arrested without cause, tortured, humiliated, re-arrested, re-tortured ... told quietly and calmly by people who experienced these things first hand.
But what is especially powerful -- and what keeps us from being overwhelmed with cynicism or anger -- is the lack of hatred among the Palestinians we are meeting with -- both Christians and Muslims. Again and again we hear the word "nonviolent," and we see a desire not for revenge or even isolation, but for reconciliation. They want to live in peace with Israelis. They want Jews, Muslims, and Christians to learn to live together as neighbors. One Palestinian scholar said it like this: "I want to live in a nation that respects basic human rights for everyone." A fellow in a refugee camp said, "I want to have Jewish neighbors so we can relate as equals, as human beings, not as guards and prisoners ... We have been victimized, but we never want to be victimizers." More on this later.
Greg Barrett (author of The Gospel of Father Joe) adds this story:
An isolated but telling scene (for me) from the troubled Holy Land:
We were running late on Thursday for a lecture/interview with a Chicago-born Israeli settler, Ardie, at his synagogue in the West Bank's Jewish-only "occupied" Ephrata Settlement. Our Palestinian tour guide, Ibrahim, glanced at his watch and looked concerned.
"Should I phone Ardie and let him know?" our host asked Ibrahim.
Ibrahim nodded yes-yes. "Please. That would be the polite thing to do."
Twenty minutes later Ibrahim listened respectfully while Ardie disputed this idea of "occupied" territory. "For whatever reason God gave this land as a keepsake to the people of Israel," Ardie said, citing the Torah. "That's what I believe." He glanced over at Ibrahim, who sat quietly and ten feet away. "So kill me. Not really!" Ardie said, shrugging, laughing, still looking at Ibrahim.
For forty-five minutes Ibrahim listened to Ardie and he never stirred, never interrupted. Even as Ardie chose insulting adjectives to describe the Palestinian territories pre-1948 -- "This area was like a truck stop