Hello from Jerusalem!
My name is Laura Anderson & I am serving as one of the leaders of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod Young Adult Holy Land Trip. We are a group of five young adults who have traveled to accompany the people of the Holy Land, advocate for peace and justice for all people here, and build awareness of the situation in Palestine and Israel.
Having served as a Young Adult in Global mission in Beit Jala, there is a sense of homecoming for me – the sounds, smells, tastes and relationships are familiar and comfortable. In this role as a leader, there is a great opportunity & responsibility to share this place with the participants who have said “yes” to joining us on this pilgrimage of justice, peace, and understanding; even after a few short days, it has been fun to see how folks have gotten more comfortable and at ease with the time change, the landscape, the new flavors, and key words.
The first days have been full and rich! Our participants arrived on Thursday morning, and after dropping their things at the Guesthouse, we set off on a Dual Narrative tour of the Old City with Megdi Tours. We met our tour guides, Jalal and Elad, near Jaffa Gate & proceeded to hear their stories & backgrounds, walk the stones of the Old City, and begin to orient ourselves to this place. We were so impressed with our guides and are grateful for their work & willingness to teach.
Friday we met with Mark Brown of the Lutheran World Federation & had a tour of the campus here on the Mount of Olives. We heard about the important presence of the LWF, were able to witness a glimpse of the work of the staff at Augusta Victoria Hospital, and were able to climb the tower on the campus here & got a tremendous view of the city. Our afternoon was spent processing, reviewing, and discussing the political overview of the situation, as well as how what we had seen & heard at that point fit into the narratives. We also walked down the Mount of Olives along the route of the Palm Sunday processional and visited the Garden of Gethsemane & the Church of All Nations.
Saturday was spent in Bethlehem. We departed early to travel into the city from Jerusalem. Much of our day was spent at Aida Refugee Camp, with Noor WEG, the women’s empowerment group. We took a cooking class & learned how to make “sheesh barak,” a sort of ravioli/dumpling in a yogurt sauce, “mjeddrah,” a dish made up of lentils, rice, and noodles & served with fried onions, assorted salads and desserts. It was all “Zaki,” or delicious, but what struck our group the most was the opportunity to cook side by side with these women, to hear about their lives in Aida Camp, and to support the work that they do with women, children, and people living with disabilities. From there, we walked along the Wall; for me, no matter how many times I see it, I am never prepared for how large, how imposing, how inhumane it is. Standing 25 feet high, the shadow it casts falls over the shops and homes that stand alongside it. When you consider that the word “Noor” in Arabic means “light,” you can see that the work of Noor WEG casts light into the shadows.
There is so much more to share – the food we ate, the hospitality we received, and all we have learned. It can’t all possibly fit into a single post. What I will share now is a sense of gratitude for this group: the conversation is rich, the desire to learn more is contagious, and the sheer determination to be a positive presence & work for peace in this land of walls inspires me. We are still only at the beginning though & we invite you to walk with us as we journey. Yalla – lets go!