by Lissa Scott, 1-month Holy Land IMMERSION team member
Jet lag hit me with an hour left in the tour. I sat on the rocking tour bus, struggling to stay awake, listening to Baha tell a story about a Palestinian man punished for tending to his olive tree.
I tried to sleep but instead lied in bed restless, watching the curtains blow back and forth with the breeze coming in through the open window. Eventually, the Call to Prayer hummed me to sleep.
Palestine is a place like no other. This weekend was humbling. As we walked the Separation Wall, heard stories from internally displaced refugees, heard about imposed regulations...I've realized how much much IÂ didn't know about the conflict here. It's so surreal. To stand in the place of present oppression. To be under water-use regulations. To be on the other side of the wall, spending time with people who cannot leave where they are without approval. It's mind-blowing.
And unlike them, I can leave. I can cross back across the Israeli-controlled barrier. I can go stay in Jerusalem and not worry if the water I use will be shut off without warning. I have more rights than those born here do.
There's many different power dynamics at play here. In the midst of the tensions, however, I'm reminded of how similar we all are.
This morning, we went to church in Bethlehem. The service was completely in Arabic. At first I tried to follow along or figure out what was being sung and said. In time, however, I gave up and closed my eyes. I sat there, head bowed and eyes closed as the congregation harmonized "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the Lord's Prayer in Arabic. It was breathtaking. What struck me was the realization that, for so many people in the U.S., Arabic has become a scary language. The language creates suspicion so much so that a man speaking Arabic before a flight was ordered to leave the plane. But Arabic is so far from scary. It's beautiful and enchanting, and today I heard it being used to praise God. My language may be different but I worship the same, and today, Arabic led me to praise.
Yes, scary things happen here. But what's just as true is that scary things happen everywhere else, too. The Middle East is much more beautiful than scary. The people are much more beautiful than dangerous.
This is the Holy Land and my God is here.
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