Off to the Holy Land (November 2013; Volume 2, Issue 11)
It was four years ago that I started preparing for my first trip to the Middle East. As I started to pack, repack, and triple check my bags, I also began reading the suggested books that the trip leader/professor assigned as pre-reading. Archbishop Elias Chacour’s book Blood Brothers was my first eye-opening experience of many in preparation and during that trip; I had always thought that what the US media said about the Israel-Palestine conflict was comprehensive. In college I took a class called “Introduction to Jewish Thought” as part of my Religious Studies minor, so I knew that there were more than one opinion about the existence and location of a Jewish Homeland, but there was (and is) so much I did not know.
I did not understand that someone could be Arab, Israeli, Palestinian, and Christian all at the same time; but Elias is! There are not just two sides of the story: Israeli & Palestinian or Jewish & Muslim. There is a spectrum of perspectives from extremism to pacifism in all religions involved (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other). The conflict and the solution are anything but simple or easy. Peace is hard work, but it is not hopeless!
This is why I will soon be returning to Israel/Palestine for a third time: November 12-26, 2013. I will be travelling with a group of pastors and lay-people from the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This trip has three foci: 1) Visit the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites, 2) Make and grow relationships with our Lutheran partners in Palestine, and 3) Explore and experience issues of justice and peace. This is my first trip to Palestine/Israel as an ordained pastor and with an official companion synod relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), so it is sure to be even more complex than any of my previous trips.
Lutheran Church of Framingham’s Council has been gracious enough to allow me to use my remaining Continuing Education time and budget for 2013 to cover part of this trip, and I will use vacation time and personal money to cover the rest. However, I ask for your support in any or all the following ways:
- Pray for our group as we travel: for our safety as well as open minds & hearts.
- Pray for all who live in the midst of and are affected by the ongoing conflict.
- Check out multiple new sources from various sides of the conflict in an effort to get broader and more balanced information.
- Check out Peace Not Walls, the ELCA’s special campaign that calls for a just peace in Palestine and Israel: www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls.aspx
- Speak up for change with the help of resources from Churches for Middle East Peace: www.cmep.org
Thank you in advance for all your love and support! I know you might be nervous about my travels (I know my mom definitely is!), but this is an issue that I am very passionate about! When I return, I will host the Continental Breakfast on Sunday, December 8 to share pictures, mementos, stories, and my favorite foods!