I have been in Palestine and Israel for just under a week. I knew I would see many things that would leave me wondering about what is going on in this part of the world. I also realized that like most geopolitical and theological issues there would be many perspectives around each story. Ultimately, it all seemed so complicated – especially from a distance.
As a person of faith, I believe that God calls on us to try to understand. Not so we will be quick to judge but rather so we will see through the eyes of the other and reach out in compassion rooted in justice.
In my normal life as a minister I follow the weekly readings offered in the Common Lectionary. This seems like a good tool to use as I record some of my impressions of my experience here.
The reading from the Hebrew scriptures this week is about Moses coming down the mountain carrying the tablets with God’s commandments:
– a way to live faithfully,
– a way to offer hope and liberation to a people who had lived under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh,
– a way to live together in peace with justice,
– a way to live so all will be well.
Earlier this week I met a Palestinian woman who told a story about visiting her brother who has been in prison for over three years.
She talked about her months of frustration trying to get permission to visit him.
She talked about other bureaucratic roadblocks put in the way of a visit.
I began to wonder where her story was leading when it dramatically shifted.
She told us of an eight year old boy who had been brought to visit his father in the same prison where her brother was held. The boy was blind. When it was time for the children to be let in to greet their fathers to hug them and to be held by their dad the blind boy
was held back. A guard said the rule was only children under eight would be allowed to go into the room and this child was eight years and four months. The blind boy begged and cried to be let in for he truly couldn’t see his father on the other side of the glass nor did he understand what was going on. The woman begged and pleaded with the guards to have compassion on this poor child. The guards responded that he was over eight so he would have to stay behind the glass where he could see him.
When Moses came down from the mountain his face glowed for he had seen the face of God and the glory of God’s way forward. He carried with him the tablets that offered hope for a people who had lived under oppression.
The face of the woman with whom I spoke also glowed – with righteous anger. Anger rooted in injustice being foisted upon an innocent, confused child who she could not help.
So, I am left to wonder about many things.
I wonder about the young, blind boy. I wonder how this incident will affect the rest of his life. Will he grow up to be compassionate? Will he learn to love his neighbour? Will he grow up to believe that the glory of God is revealed in the way of peace rooted in justice with compassion? Or will he believe that God will be glorified in some act of vengeance?
I wonder if God’s glory and grace will ever be revealed to an older woman filled with frustration, to a blind young boy longing to be held by his father and to guards who seem so callous? I guess I also wonder about who was truly blind in this story?
Life is complicated for those who live in the West Bank in more ways than most of us will ever fully realize.