Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Trampled Rose, Israel and Palestine

As I ponder through my Israel pictures I can't help but think about the loss of my journal. I ended up leaving my journal on the Canada Air plane, and I have not seen it since. I can only hope that someone is reading the stories of my adventures in Israel and feeling some sort of entertainment, love, hope or any positive feeling. I guess I have yet to really share my experiences from the trip on this blog. I seemed so devastated that all my writing was lost, I had no urge to rewrite it. Walking through the streets of Israel was pure amazement in my eyes. The question that kept coming to my mind was, how could this be the holy land? How has God chosen this such corrupt part of the world to be also one of the most religious areas in the world? Our God, he works in the most mysterious ways. He is always at work teaching us lessons. In the bible Jesus did not live an easy life, but he made it true that there is a light on this earth and with faith, hope and love life can achieve a sort of happiness that most importantly fills the hearts of you and those around you. As I was on my adventure in Israel traveling from Tel-Aviv to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, to Hebron, to the Galilee, to the Golan Heights and everywhere else I began to see the journey of Jesus's life and how he used his teachings to shape each of us today. At many times I felt like Jesus's teaching were still like a rose that had been trampled on the ground, but like the song "Above All" says he took the fall, thought of me and is above all. Within all the corruption, interrogation of human rights and the source of many other religions God is still speaking to this land. 
My adventure seemed to follow the paths of the gospel of Mark, Matthew and Luke. We started in Bethlehem and went to the Shepard's field, Church of Nativity, and many more.  A few days later in the Galilee traveled to the Mount of Temptation where Moses and Elijah stood beside the Lord. We traveled to the ruins of Capernaum located at the northern shore of the Galilee, this is also the home of St. Peter. We stayed a night in Nazareth and attended a beautiful ceremony at the Church of Annunciation. This is where the angel came to Mary to proclaim to her that she would give birth to a child. In Jerusalem we walked the path Jesus took with the cross and stopped at the many locations of where he fell. We went to the church of holy sepulchre. This was the last stop Jesus took with the cross and where he hung on the cross. Also this is the location of the graves. We walked the Palm Sunday Path coming from Mt. of Olives down to Mt. Morriah. We visited the church of Ascension which is on the Mt. of Olives. This is where Jesus ascended into heaven. There is also a rock that dates back that was the rock that has footprint. The way I word this must say I am true believer. I say this was the place and this happened here and it is all the truth. The thing I thought about several times while I was in Israel and Palestine was that I have many other religions; Jews, Muslims walking all around me that make up the majority population of this country. They are in these places and were surrounded by this their entire lives. I am so humbled to be walking the paths that Jesus Christ once walked and to be standing in the holy places of his teachings and works, and these individuals of different faiths do not have my beliefs. My eyes come to tears when I think about my experience standing in these places and the thought of the person living in the home next to me does not see this. I am confused of even what to think. I do feel that all faiths should have religious freedoms and am a firm understander of Interfaith. I know while I'm standing in Israel with my aye of being in the location of Jesus's Christ's walk I can not force my religion on other beautiful religion. I can pray that the other religious people of different faiths see me and my peers and other christian travelers portraying the words and works that our Christ taught us. I can hope they feel the joy of our kindness and our spirtuality and see that our Lord does make beautiful things, especially in the hearts of his people. 
Religion is one of the biggest conflict barriers in this country. Above I only did a very quick summary of my journey. Digger deeper into the pockets of my trip there was such a education I learned about this country. One of the most shocking experiences I had was traveling around the West Bank, which is the Palestinian territory. I have copied the letter I wrote to many family members after this experience while I was there. This shows my feelings immediately after the journey to Hebron. My reactions then were reflecting off what I had seen in just the first 3 or 4 days in Israel, before taking the path to the Galilee where Jesus did much of his teaching. 
    This is the first time I have been able to get on a computer to email you. The last 2 messages were from someone's phone, and I had about 10 minutes to send. We have done soooo much in 2 1/2 days. It's crazy how much I have already seen and learned. This country has beautiful people to start off with. Whether they are Palenstians, Jews, Christians or Israelis they have all been extremely nice to us. They welcome us with open arms always willing to serve us something and very polite. When we arrived at our first location which was Bethlehem and still is they had juice and pastrys for us at the hotel door. Even when we resisted to take them they continued to say yes yes for you! So far we have seen almost all of Bethlehem. We started off visiting the historical sites. This was wonderful! We went to Sheperd's field first which right off the streets of Bethlehem. This is the field that the shepards saw the angel that told them Jesus was going to be born. The shepards actually housed their sheep in caves, and there were several caves we went into here. Today there are people who have worship services in these caves. The next place we went was the sheperd's field. This is the field that the shepards saw the angel that told them Jesus was going to be born. The shepards actually housed their sheep in caves, and there were several caves we went into here. Today there are people who have worship services in these caves. The next place we went was the Church of Nativity, where Jesus was born. This church is actually very big. All other churches were demolished during the.....age, but there was a picture of the wise men in this church that looked similar to the.....age's look and the Church of Nativity was kept standing. Today this church is a .... The line to see where Jesus was born was quite long, but of course worth it when you got to it. We had to go through this tiny door that took us underground. There was this small corner with a star with 15 points that marked the spot where the manager sat. Many people were kissing the star others praying and crying. I just looked at it and thanked God for Bethlehem is a beautiful city. All of the buildings are this white rock. When you look out all you see is the white rock buildings for miles. Also there are several buildings with unfisnished windows. This is because each building is owned by a family and these families do not have the money to finish the building right now due to the economy and war. I am finishing this letter on the next message.
We also went to an orphnage. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. The owner told us that these children are not allowed to be adopted because of the law. Therefore they stay in this place til 6 years old and then move to another orphange. The first baby I met had a tremdous story. It is illegal for women who are unwed to have a child and that is why many of the children have to leave their homes. The first baby was born from a 16 year old girl who was raped by her uncle. The uncle was put in jail, but the sad part is when the uncle gets out of jail he can come get the child. The other children were a bit older I played ball with a cute little boy. These children were all so quiet for their age and not very active. Going on with what we did today. I will tell you I was actually pretty scared! But I was reading Luke today and read where Jesus told the discplines not to be scared and asked where is their faith when the boat was being flooded with water. I have been taking this passage with me a lot today and kept thinking my faith is in the Lord and he is protecting us through this. We went to 3 different communities all of which are enemies of each other. To start out...the what is happening between Israel and Palenestine is very confusing. It is def. not black and white. The first community we went to was a Jewish community. This was a pretty well off community, nice homes, people practicing their religion 24/7. A Jewish man from Chicago who is actually from Israel let us into his home and told us many stories about how the Jews do not like the Palenstines and the sucide bombs the palenstians take action in affect the Jewish settlement. This was his side. The next community we went to was a agriculutral community. We went to the center of Freedom and Justice here. This was actually a very very small building. This town was very poor and very torn. Just a week or so ago a young boy was killed by an Israel soldier. The man here was telling us how he does not like the settlements growing and becoming in their land. Their sueage( SOrry can't spell) is killing their plants. There were sooooo many grapes. He took us on top of a building in this community and pointed out these settlements. The building we went on top of was old with no windows and people lived there. The entire town was like that. This man is also going to speak to the UN next week. The next place we went the city of Hebron was the "scary" part for me. This is one of the biggest cities in the West Bank. Mostly Muslim. Our guide that has been taking us around could not go into the places we went becasue he was an Arab Israel. and Christian. We were dropped off with these two palestian men. They talked to us about what has been happening in Hebron with the Jewish people and the Israel govt. We then went through a check point in the city. This check The soldiers all armed and big checked our bags and we headed up the empty street. This entire area was torn apart by Israeli soldiers only about 7 to 5 years ago. The buildings were empty, graffitti on the walls. We then went a back passage way through trees and rocks almost like we were climbing a mountain. We finally got to the top where these men had an organization. It was also a home like building old no air no furniture, broken windows and graffit saying free Palestine. The men talked to us about their life. There were several small children who would walk past and wave. They then offered us this great lunch, rice chicken etc. They put us in this back room and shut the door. As we ate they showed us videos about how innocent palenstians were getting beaten by Jews in Hebron today. These men actually flmed these videos themselves. You can go to Btselm to check them out on youtube. As we left the room, I looked out and not but like 10 feet away sat the soldiers. Just watching us leave. We were American so they loved us. As we left we could not walk back with our two new friends. Since they were Palestians they had to take another route. They droppped us off down the hill and the soldiers checked out passports and said go on... We walked this completely empty street with broken windows and all for about a mile and then we got the the markets. 
There is a lot more to this story, but I am not going to post this online. Please contact me if you would like to hear the rest of the story of Hebron. I have not included any names or exact places that we were located.

This is what we have done so far. When I first arrived to BEthlehem I would look out my window and up and down the hills see beauty, now after today I look out and see corruption. I have reminded myself though that there is always beauty in God's land, and sometines I can imagine Jesus standing on the rolling hills in the distance raising his arms.
This writing came completely from the day experience of living in Israel. I still find it fascinating to look back at this writing to see how excited I was about my experience. I am blessed to have seen this part of the world and most blessed to have been walking the path that Jesus walked. I gathered many shells from the Sea of Galilee and I hope to start making bracelets and picture frames with these soon for my friends and family. I handed some of the shells out at a local church I attend in Chicago and one of the women who took one prayed with me as she held the shell in her hand. She said told me she was touching the shell that Jesus walked on and this shell he had touched, while smiling. There are moments when you can see the Lord working in your everyday life, and this is was one of the moments when I saw the light shine down and let the love shine. Above us he shines down and speaks to our hearts and in the midst of an amazing journey of busy days waking up early, walking in hot temps and even in the people you encounter in your home country he is there above us with all power.