Monthly Archives: July 2013

Solidarity with Trayvon Martin in Palestine


Here in the Bethlehem area, a Palestinian area fully surrounded by Israeli military infrastructure, there are often protests on Friday afternoon that emerge as a result of the energy generated by the prayers and worship services at local mosques.  These protests are about systemic injustice that privilege Israeli Jews over Palestinians living in the West Bank and Israel. This systemic injustice shows up in issues like water allocation, infrastructure development, and human rights abuses such as prison detention without trial for up to six months-renewable.

This week, at least one of the Friday protests featured hooded sweatshirts.  Not because it was cold, but because the people of Palestine were standing in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, and saw their struggle for recognition and dignity as bound up with everyone else who moved to the streets to challenge the injustice of the system that produced the verdict. Many Palestinian young men face the same fate as Trayvon at the hands of Israeli military personnel and/or police.

Just like the communities of Bethlehem and others in Palestine, may the energy generated by worship in whatever faith or consciousness-raising community you may be a part of inspire you to public action for the common good. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, and they our keepers. Not to “stand our ground” against one another, but to extend and receive a hand of friendship, restorative justice, and solidarity.  I recommend reading this article to generate ongoing discussion, and the poem by Langston Hughes about Kids Who Die.

Rahiel Tesfamariam speaks clearly on the issue this week on the Beatitudes Society blog and Urban Cusp: ““Believe me when I say that Trayvon did not die in vain. His death will birth more than we could have ever imagined. His name will be etched in history for having resurrected our community/ our country from any possible slumber we may have been in. We are awake. And ready. Are we not? To start, please sign this petition created by the NAACP calling on the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation.””

Whether our feelings are moral outrage at the continual inequality and slaughter of our children’s future, or if the feeling is simply sadness or compassion, let us continue to act in pursuit of justice and peace.  I believe that people of faith are desperately needed at this critical moment. Faith and values compel us to speak out against the violation of fundamental human and civil rights.

As Auburn Seminary Vice President John V. and Groundswell Founder Valarie K. wrote recently, “together as people of many traditions — Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, Hindus and Humanists, and other faith traditions — we can make a moral case for action, stepping past tired partisan rhetoric…the bloodshed in our communities again and again shows that we must work louder and stronger to channel our moral outrage into action.”Dheisheh
Kids and young adults from the group I’m leading interacting in Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Nearby political graffiti that shows a reversal of power imbalance between the soldier and the young girl.

Being Back in Bethlehem


Riding in from the airport, it only felt like I’d been gone a few months. Actually, it has been a year. The memories don’t come flooding back, but work themselves from the back of my brain forward to consciousness in a steady trickle (like the Jordan River in the summer).

 The words however—both Arabic and Hebrew—rush back into my head as fast as they come out of the mouth of the person in front on me. I left in July 2012 thinking I didn’t understand much, often nearly drowning in confusing conversation by this time last year. But, upon return, I am pleasantly surprised by the accessibility of vocabulary, verb conjugation, and the ease at which this area’s long list of emphatic idioms roll off my tongue. Illhumdulillah! Yani, mis mishkula…

Omar, Moshiko, Shireen, Tawfiq, Atalya, Nadine, Moriel and I pick up right where we left off… I try not to assume that we’ll still in the same place though. We’ve all collected another year’s worth of stories. Noam is the only one who looks older; he’s been totally consumed by architectural school all year. And there is Ryan and Ingrid’s new baby who I hope to meet yet this month. Daisy went to India!

A number of my friends have made close relationships their “projects” for this past year.  Building interpersonal relationships was an important part of my life in Jerusalem.  The relationships that transgressed lines of deep difference were some of the most instructive for me.  I realize again how much I learned my year in Palestine and Israel…on the political level, yes, but also the personal.

By the time I left, I thought I’d heard all the stories that could make me cry. But I’ve been here for only 39 hours so far and I’m already accumulating stories that move me to that all-to-familiar place where the tears well-up behind the eyes and just sit there, on edge. Stories of elongated commutes and wasted petrol, of tired bodies, of humor, of bureaucratic ridiculousness, of masculinity profoundly shaped by realities of desert and destruction.

We lost all our baggage too, which as group leader it was my task to retrieve.  But I got it! That was a confidence booster, both in myself as a delegation leader and in the way this society can care for people and their baggage (physical, emotional, or otherwise).

I am here because I brought a group affiliated with Christian Peacemaker Teams to the Moving Mountains Sabeel conference. They are volunteering at the Tent of Nations today.  Everyone’s excited and agitated, exposed to all these realities for the first time.  But I feel a heaviness. It took me awhile to figure out why, but then I realized what it was.

It was the residue of a familiar Sadness…a Sadness that I carried most of the year last year.  A Sadness I learned to stuff down in order to get other tasks done. A Sadness that manifested in the US after my return from this region as a silent weeping when the Biblical text was read aloud in church. I didn’t realize the Sadness would resurface so quickly. It is not as consuming or instructive as it was last year, but the residue of the emotional impact the brokenness and visible injustice is undeniable.

Patience. Subur. May the Sadness, the confidence, the stories, and the reunions all increase my compassion for life on earth, here and everywhere the cactus bloom.