“Tell me about your trip,” my friends ask, curious about my first visit to Israel or just being kind. So I begin to try to adequately describe a piece of geography where seemingly every square inch tells a story of world-changing significance.
“The Jordan river is way smaller than you think,” I weakly begin. “We ate breakfast on the Sea of Galilee and saw a fishing boat that has recently been discovered that dates back to the time of Jesus. The Dome of the Rock is huge and impressive, we were not allowed to go inside. The stations of the Cross are just tile numbers in buildings around the old city and people crowd the narrow streets doing business in the market, as if nothing ever happened there. We visited an olive factory and bought some crosses. The fort at Masada is quite moving and the view from the top is staggering. We saw the Dead Sea.” I ramble on in no specific order. I pull out my cell phone camera roll for a little memory boost and try to ignore the nagging image that my heart recalls.
I see a wall. It is made of beautiful cream-colored ancient stones, piled way above the bobbing heads of the people who line it’s base. They are rocking and chanting and praying, reaching up, out and over the wall to an unseen hand. They are placing little scraps of paper into crevices in the wall. One can’t know the content of their lamentations but it’s easy to imagine that they contain some version of unuttered need that screams, “I am in need, hear me.”
Less than 6 miles away there is another wall. It is made from ugly columns of dirty concrete and topped with tall rows of electric wire. To enter Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, one must cross this formidable barrier through turnstiles and checkpoints. Scrutiny from guards shouldering rifles is a daily ritual for those passing from one side of the wall to the other. The wall begs to be breached and the lamentations of the Palestinians are as unique and numerous and as they are evocative. Each mark expressing a cry for help and the need to be heard.
I profess to have little to no understanding of what it is like to live in this region of profound historical and religious heritage and ever-present fear of imminent conflict. As an outsider, I try to wrap my mind around the people who stand and weep before both walls and wonder if I too should weep.
Is there any hope?
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
Ephesians 2:14 NIV