An EA reflects on the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel
by Chris, Bethlehem
An EA walks near the separation wall in Bethlehem. Photo EAPPI/G. Galmen.
This year for the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, many of the EAs joined in a service with the Benedictine Sisters at the separation wall in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem – where Jesus was born in a country the Romans occupied at that time.
Bethlehem – still under occupation today, but now where freedom to travel is more restricted than it was for Mary and Joseph 2000 years ago.
At the service, each of us was issued with a “permit” which allowed us past the “barrier” into the monastery where we could worship. This action was a sobering reminder of the continuing difficulty Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, who have restricted access – their Holy Sites, face.
To pray you need a permit!!! Photo EAPPI/G. Galmen
Worship began with a reading of a letter church leaders wrote last Easter concerning this reaction. Then, several local ministers from various Christian traditions, led the packed congregation. We exchanged the peace along with olive branches, traditionally a symbol of peace. For me, olive branches have an even deeper resonance with the very life blood of this land, particularly as olive harvest approaches.
For that reason, this passage from the service resonated with me:
The destruction and uprooting of olive trees by the Israeli occupation is not only an expression of ecological disrespect and vandalism, but also an insult to God’s creation and people who, despite their oppression and suffering, can still extend their hands with an olive branch to soldiers and oppressors.
It was, however, the benediction at the very end of our worship which I found particularly challenging and which has remained with me. It was based on the Franciscan prayer of discomfort:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of peoples, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of the One who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day and forever more. Amen