Revealing Myself

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I have a strange ritual when I meet someone and I am “off duty”. On the golf course, I have learned introducing myself as a minister usually results in apologies, bad jokes, bizarre questions and worst of all horrible assumptions. But, introducing myself as a human rights observer can make me a target for a lot of hatred and bigotry. No one has ever threatened to take a swing at me but I have been chased away by a soldier with a gun. – I guess that is probably more serious. So, I have learned to be careful about exactly what I say when I’m asked what I am doing in Palestine.

So here is the reply when the awkward question is asked. First, I say I live in Bethlehem. If they ask what I am doing there I tell them I am a minister doing stuff with the World Council of Churches (WCC). Then if they ask me what my focus is, I tell them that the WCC has human rights observers across the West Bank and we watch for problems between Palestinians and Israelis. Gradually and ever so cautiously I let them in on my secret. I guess this process is something like a strip tease.

The other day in Tiberias, I entered into this strange ritual with an Arab Israeli. I made it safely to the final answer and started to walk away. Then he asked me, “Is it really true that Palestinians have trouble at the Check Points? I stopped dead in my tracks. I immediately thought to myself, “He doesn’t know!” (Actually, that is not what I really thought. I’m a minister and I’m not supposed to use that kind of language.)

So, I answered him, truthfully, sincerely and quietly. I told him a little about the past week. I told him about our friend Mousa who was shot on Monday evening for taking pictures of the Israeli military shooting at youth inside of Aida Camp. I told him five were wounded on Tuesday evening. I said there were clashes in the camp on Thursday and Friday evening but I didn’t have any reliable info on whether anyone was hurt or arrested.

I didn’t tell him about the tear gas canister left in the Tuqu school yard that exploded when a 12 year old picked it up. Nor did I mention the seizure orders from the military in Nahhalin. I didn’t get into the settler violence supported by the Israeli military or any of the other stuff that happened around Bethlehem last week and virtually every week in the area.I guess I didn’t want to overplay what I was telling him.

After all, who would really ____ing believe the ____ that happens here unless you actually witness it yourself. (Sorry about the blanks you will need to fill them in yourself. As for me, I will try to clean up my language before I return to Canada.)

The sad reality is that many people living here do not have the faintest idea of what life is like on this side of the wall.

I guess the hopeful reality for me is that they don’t know. If they did and quietly accepted it and didn’t rage about it – my faith in humanity would be shattered.

The risen Jesus gradually reveals himself to his friends in who were fishing in Tiberias. They in turn gradually begin to recognize the changed reality they must now reevaluate their lives by.

It is my hope that all will come to recognize the reality faced by our brothers and sisters in Palestine. It is my prayer that when people know they will cry out for peace with justice like Isaiah and Jeremiah, like Amos and Hosea.

May we all come to recognize the face of Jesus, a Palestinian by birth, in the faces of those who are unjustly persecuted every day.

About Steve Berube

I am a team minister at St. Paul's United Church in Riverview, NB, Canada. I served as a human rights observer in Bethlehem while on sabbatical in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches.
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9 Responses to Revealing Myself

  1. Roland says:

    Good Steve, nothing more needs to be said.

  2. Gerard Collins says:

    Impressed with the sacrifice you are making in the interest of peace in the Middle East Steve. Keep up the good work, and we trust God will continue to guide you and keep you safe. Look forward to seeing you this summer on the golf course.

  3. Carol Steel says:

    Hi Steve,
    I am relieved to know that you are being wise and cautious about interactions. I knew you would be but was concerned about how safe you might be, even so. I wonder if the conversation, slowly revealed made any difference to the man with whom you shared. Was he able to believe you, to take your words in and to change his thinking? Would he share the story with others? If yes, then there is hope.

  4. Paul Burns says:

    I’ve read in a number of places that many German citizens we’re unaware of the holocaust going on around them. I’m not sure how they couldn’t but maybe so. Sometimes people don’t notice what they hope isn’t going on. It’s hard to say where that conversation you had might end up. A small pebble can make a big ripple in a still pond. Be safe.

  5. Linda Scherzinger says:

    Thank you so much, Steve. Thank you for being there and thank you for your excellent weekly messages – revelations of the reality you have been experiencing. We look forward to your being back in Canada to continue your sharing what you now know from personal observation and experience with people here – most of whom don’t know at all and can’t imagine that reality. Stay safe as you keep on keeping on. Peace, Linda

  6. Kathryn Anderson says:

    Steve, this entry and all are extraordinarily powerful and moving. As you know from our time together in Guatemala, many find it hard to believe or understand or even want to listen to such painful realities. Especially so when we may be connected by our purchases or our investments or our government’s actions and inactions. So for humanizing the struggle and for your presence there I am deeply thankful. Towards peace with justice. Kathryn

  7. Myrna and Jim Wicks says:

    Hi Steve. We want to thank you what you are putting yourself through all for the sake of peace , justice and humanity. It is such an important witness and example for us all. Looking forward to you coming back to the Maritimes. Take care.

  8. Yvette Swan says:

    Steve, There is an exhibition in St. Paul’s Hall, of art work done by the children of Gaza. One stood out to me. In it even the trees were crying. Your Blog this week reflect that to me. Protect yourself please.

  9. Shirley says:

    We add our thanks and appreciation for what you are doing and how you are helping to awaken us to the reality of life for the Palestinians. Thinking of the Israeli man who was unaware of the very hard conditions for Palestinians due to his government’s policies and actions we have to state that the same can easily be said of many (even the majority?) of Canadians who are unaware of the situation of Indigenous peoples right here at home. Shirley and Bob Childs

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