Saturday, December 8, 2012

Peace Mission

Tomorrow I leave for Israel to experience first hand and better understand the dynamics of modern Israel and Palestinian relations.  This is no sight seeing tour of common tourist destinations.  A delegation of denominational leaders from American Baptists and Church of the Brethern will journey together under the leadership of the Telos Group whose stated mission is:
Telos strengthens the capacity of American faith communities - and especially American evangelicals - to help positively trans­form the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our vision is security, freedom, and dignity for every human being in the Holy Land, and our belief is that a viable two-state solution supported by the United States is the best and most practical way to realize that vision.   
In other words, we at Telos are genuinely pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, and pro-peace, all at the same time.

Friends and family alike continue to ask me, "So, are you ready (excited) for your trip?"  For a long time my answer was, "Well it is still a ways off and I have a ton of things to read before I go."  But this week leading up to the trip my answer has been, "I will get to see places I have only read about or seen on TV.  It will be cool to look upon the geography that has shaped so many of my thoughts."  I realize there is very little about modern Israel that is remotely the same as 2,000-5,000 years ago that make up the Biblical narrative.  But it will still be neat to look upon the same mountains and hills the kings, judges, prophets, and disciples traveled.

My unspoken, more honest response is, "I have no idea what to expect or hope to get out of this trip."  This is not a vacation.  I am not just a tourist to this "Holy Land"  as though I can simply look out my hotel window and romantically see visions of Christ teaching on the Galilean hillside.  For to do that I would have to look past the violence, segregation, a wall, guard posts, damaged farms, contested boarders, and the constant tension.  For this trip I am going to learn about those who live in and fight over this "Holy Land" presently. To hear all sides and meet real people who deal with these issues everyday.  We are going to meet members of the Knesset, World Council of Churches, College professors, local church leaders, community developers, have a Shabbat meal with a family, and visit some of the most polarizing communities in the land like Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron.  We will also do some touristy things like visit churches, go to a museum, visit old Jerusalem, and be in Bethlehem during Advent.

We were encouraged to read several books and articles.  It has been an eye opening experience.  I have learned more about the Israeli/Palestinian divide in the past six months than in my whole life up to this point. I am looking forward to hearing how we can mirror the hope and optimism of Telos' mission statement.  Because from behind a book and behind a flatscreen TV news program, it looks difficult.  Yet I can't help being hopeful for the experience, to strengthen relationships with my ABC colleagues, make new friends from across the world, and yes walk the "places" of the Bible.  I will post when I can about this trip.  It may be everyday it may be once but keep checking back.

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