Today we visited Hebron.
Hebron is a city of great significance to both the Palestinians who have lived here for generations, and to Jewish settlers who strongly believe that the land belongs to them, as they read God’s promises to Abraham as promises that also include them today. Now the harsh reality is that the Palestinians can no longer live or move freely in Hebron.
We had a guide from Break the Silence, which is an Israeli organization of former military members who now speak up against the occupation.
Our guide did his time in the Israeli army, and is now advocating against the illegal occupation of Palestinian Territories. He is not a pacifist, he loves his country, and he believes that loving Israel also means to speak up against its current military policies. It was a painful day, in many ways.
I have been to the Holy land before, and there is nothing new under the sun: our Palestinian sisters and brothers are still hurting under the power of the empire, and it breaks my heart.
It breaks my heart to see kids growing up fearing that they will be the next targets for a random military drill, to see Palestinian parents desperately trying to sell us things at the checkpoint, knowing that they will only have our attention for a brief moment before we enter a city that used to be their home, which they no longer can access. It breaks my heart to hear the Israeli military guard who says “I hate having to be here, carrying this gun. I should be out having fun with my buddies. I’m 21 and this is awful.”
Later in the day, we went back to Jerusalem. As I was sitting outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I was overwhelmed with sadness, and right now my heart is too full of impressions to go into more details of what we have seen today. Instead, I will share a piece that I wrote as I was journaling to process the day:
“I laid my head, scarf and hands on the stone where Jesus, according to tradition, was anointed after his death. Today, I need to remember this part of my faith: even when all seems lost, when death has come, the women came to bless and anoint Jesus, creating beauty where there was none.
A place of death became a place of deep care. Not to erase death or suffering, but to find ways to live with it. To still choose goodness and beauty after an act of violence and after having seen the grim face of death in the eyes, refusing to let it blind them. They were still going to anoint and bless.
The women who anointed Jesus did not know that their acts of love would be remembered, and they definitely did not know that Jesus would rise from the dead. And they did it anyway.
I find myself asking if my faith and actions reflect the same love? And do they reflect the end of the story; that after suffering, death and grief, God makes new life?
I want to live out from this faith. I want to trust that the darkness of the world, the evil that our Palestinian sisters and brothers are facing, will end. And in the meantime, we can anoint and bless one another. We can use the gifts that we have been given to look death and evil in the eyes saying: you have no power over me.”