Blessings to all. Today we spent the majority of the day on the West Bank, which wasn't a big deal, but we were in Palestinian territory, and it was clear to us. People look different and they sound different. We ate at a Palestinian Restaurant called Temptation Restaurant--just the name would tip you off that you were in a different place--neither Jews nor Christians would name their restaurant Temptation!
Generally the Palestinians live in much less glamorous housing and our guide pointed out that they are always ready to be under siege and have built large water tanks on their homes so they have water for up to two weeks if they come under attack. While I would not call Israeli housing attractive--cinder block and concrete--Palestinian housing is much more worn looking, broken down, lower income, etc.
I was also told tonight that a Palestinian girl was shot to death by an Israeli police officer on the West Bank, close to where we were, after she allegedly tried to stab him. I say 'allegedly' because it's hard to get the full story. Why would a 13 year old girl try to stab an armed soldier? I know I don't understand all of this, and the questions remain in my heart.
We also went to the site where the ancient city of Jericho is being excavated, and after that to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. To be honest, I am officially overwhelmed by all this knowledge, what I am seeing, hearing, eating and experiencing, and today I am almost too tired to write this, but I want to keep touching bases to let you know a little bit about my trip.
As I write this from the cozy room I have in the Christ Church guesthouse in Jerusalem, centrally located near everything, I can hear a cat meowing close by. One of the great surprises of this country is the many, many cats that wander all over. If I were a photographer I'd be publishing a calendar "Cats of the Holy Land" because they are at every restaurant, every street corner--one nearly stole the sandwich I was eating yesterday until I yanked it away from him, and he looked so offended!
I'm also troubled. This is not a country where I would like to live. While the tour does a good job of bringing us to meaningful places--essential touch stones for our faith!--there so much difficulty, judgment, tension.
I will bring those things with me to worship tomorrow morning at Christ Church, and I will pray my little prayers that God will bless these people, that he will somehow find the way to teach them ways of peace, and that they will someday choose that path. I know that I often talk about impossible prayers for peace, because peace seems impossible sometimes, but I believe that our prayers are the great gift we can offer on behalf of people who have primarily known lives of violence, and we know that all things are possible with Christ.
And guess what? Jerusalem is expected snow on Monday and Tuesday, and while that is startling to people here, it's not for this New Yorker! I'll feel right at home!
Tell Fr. Mark I said hello and thanks tomorrow morning, and as always, I will pray for you.
Enjoy the gift of peace God has provided,