During our three and a half years in Zababdeh,
and during our US tour, Israel and Palestine have been drawn into a spiral
of violence, and our interpretation work necessarily has taken on a particular
urgency. Because of our front line view of these events, we tried
to give some glimpse into our lives and the lives of the people we lived
with and met. A catalogue of these updates is listed below.
Reflections written after our term in Zababdeh:
Reflections during our term in Zababdeh:
May It Stop (August
4, 2006): Our ministry has centered on amplifying the voices of Middle
Eastern Christians, voices which are so often drowned out in the loud debates
and vitriolic rhetoric. In this current crisis, we have heard a few such
voices that we’d like to share with you...And, as always, we are called
to pray. We find ourselves asking God for it to stop, stop, stop, praying
Two Independent Updates
(July 4, 2006): As we prepared to send you our thoughts on the recent
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Birmingham, the
news was filled with a violent downturn in the situation in Gaza and the
rest of Palestine and Israel. Amid the strife, our dear friend Father Firas
sent us a message about the situation in Zababdeh.
27, 2006): The transitions in our lives feel rather small, however,
when we consider the rapid changes faced by people in Israel and Palestine.
Garnering the most concern has been the success of Hamas in legislative
elections. The implications for the Palestinian Authority, the strategies
of Hamas itself, and the role of the international community remain uncertain.
However, responses from Palestinian Christian leaders emphasize God’s steadfastness
as they share a common call: “Do not be afraid.”
What Happened in Taybeh?
(September 21, 2005): Christ reminds us that the faithful response
to tragedy must focus on repentance (Luke 13:1-5). Among the many
ways we should respond, our first response must be prayerful, and our first
prayer must be that of our own accountability, our repentance for wrong
and our hope for right relationship with God and our neighbors. We
invite you to join in that prayer with us.
15, 2005): We no longer have the on-the-ground vantage point to
gather stories and experiences that we can share with you. We have
to make an effort to keep in touch with the people in Zababdeh and with
the situations they are facing. One way we do this is by chatting...We
do not take our Christian brothers’ words as gospel, but rather hear them
through the lens of the gospel. If we do so, we will hear wisdom
– wisdom that is “better than weapons of war.”
Light and Darkness:
Holy Week 2005 (March 27, 2005): We are a people always in
need of repentance, for whom God is always present, and who should always
rely on the wisdom of the Spirit. Faithful living is to live constantly
in emotional tension, with resurrection and crucifixion, triumph and suffering,
our lives each and every day.
Living into Hope
(December 21, 2004): Our years living in the West Bank have made
Advent a season that resonates deeply with us. People there know waiting:
waiting at the checkpoint, waiting for military closures to lift, waiting
for peace. They know preparing: stocking up for curfew, anticipating loss,
fearing for the worst. They also know hoping: hoping to arrive at their
destination, hoping to survive, hoping for the future of their children.
(July 8, 2004): The question for the Church is whether we will
be disciples of Jesus Christ, seeking to be instruments of grace, mercy,
and justice throughout the world, or will we surrender to lethargy, to
ignorance, to nationalistic idolatries cloaked as faithfulness.
Voices (May 30,
2004): If fulfillment of prophesy in Scripture has shown us anything,
it shows us that divine prophesy is fulfilled, but in ways we don’t expect
and can hardly imagine. Christ was not the political ruler that even
his disciples expected, the Messiah come to oust the Roman occupiers and
reestablishing the Davidic throne. Rather, Scripture was fulfilled
with a Prince of Peace whose crown was of thorns and whose throne was a
For more information, see our Web
Journal, a daily record with photos and info about our experiences
in Zababdeh and the region.
(December 3, 2003): We asked our film subjects if they wanted to say
something to their American brothers and sisters in Christ. Here
are some of their responses.
The Wall (November
5, 2003): We have also been astonished and distressed by the progress
of The Wall, which we have witnessed as it snakes a route deep into the
West Bank, imprisoning local populations in villages and towns like Jalame,
Qalqilia, and Tulkarem.
21, 2003): It is evil. It can be nothing else. Evil is opposed
to God, and God creates. This is utter destruction - of people, of
property, of lives, of hope.
(July 28, 2003): These people who come to Salem, who come and wait hours
and sometimes days and are regularly turned away, are the compliant ones,
those who are trying to follow the rules of the Israeli Occupation.
And they feel punished for doing so.
Holy Fire (May
31, 2003): Early Saturday morning, we left in our Catholic car, carrying
our Orthodox lanterns, Marthame wearing an Anglican robe borrowed from
the Melkite priest, and made our way towards Jerusalem.
20, 2003): "It was particularly wonderful for us to be here this
year, since it will be our last Easter Season in Zababdeh. This was
also true because we weren't sure if we'd be able to share in it at all."
Faith, Hope, and
Love (March 2, 2003)
"We feel strongly that this is a time for peacemakers,
not warmongers. For those of you who share our conviction, we love
you dearly. Struggle with us. Pray with us. Work with
us as seekers of peace. If you disagree, we love you dearly.
And we challenge you."
Do Not Be Afraid
(December 20, 2002):
"You're lucky Abdallah's not here, Hajj.
If he had been here, there would've been a war. You see, he's wanted.
He's a very dangerous man. I wouldn't have sacrificed one of my soldiers
for his life, so we would've destroyed the house. I'm sorry, Hajj,
but if you have students staying with you, you have to pay the price."
Voices in the Wilderness
(December 19, 2002): A walk through modern Ein Kerem, now something
of an artists' colony, reveals some of what the town must once have been.
The narrow streets and haphazard building betray its origins, as do the
architectural features of most of the homes: thick walls made of large
honey-colored stones, domed roofs, stone arches over narrow passageways
Cross the Line
(October 30, 2002):
On most days, there is a steady trickle of Arab-Israelis
entering Jalame. But not today. The only vehicles we saw on
the road were two cars driven by settlers zooming off to Jenin's illegal
neighbors, Kadim and Ganim. Otherwise,it was just the two of us walking
this long stretch of road. There was something unsettling about the
quiet, and we both drew deep, nervous breaths as the stretch of road grew
longer and lonelier. Firas began to pray as we walked.
11, 2002): A pre-dawn blast rousted us from our beds and away from the
windows. Even though our friends in Nablus have gone through much
worse this spring and summer, they and their kids were still shaken by
this explosion. Through slats in the shutters, we watched tanks prowling
the deserted streets, their gun turrets moving ominously and firing regularly,
their loudspeakers broadcasting the morning order: "Stay in your homes
or you will be shot."
(April 3, 2002):
This morning, after much prayer and heartache, we made
the difficult decision to leave. We left because we feared for our lives
and well-being in the face of the Israeli military offensive perched on
Stuck in the Garden
(April 1, 2002): This past Thursday, Christians gathered all over Jerusalem
to remember Christ's Last Supper. We joined in worship at Redeemer
Lutheran Church. As we commemorated the Passover feast Jesus shared
with his disciples, we were again reminded of the Wednesday suicide blast
that killed more than twenty Israelis as they celebrated Passover.
"This is my body broken for you," we heard in English, Arabic, and German.
"This is my blood."
When There's Nothing
Left to Say (March 8, 2002): Here in Israel and the Occupied Territories,
the divine seems extravagantly absent. In the past seventeen months,
300 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. For a population of
five million, that’s the equivalent of a World Trade Center attack five
times over. 1100 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis - 37 WTCs.
A lot of eulogies, but we hear very little truth or grace.
A Flight to Egypt
(February 7, 2002): Running away to Egypt is a time-honored tradition
in our neck of the woods - Abraham did it, as did Joseph's brothers when
they fled the famine of Canaan. People have been doing it after Christmas
ever since the first one, when Mary and Joseph fled with their newborn
to escape Herod's slaughter of the innocents.
The Play's the Thing
(December 24, 2001): As kids in Zababdeh prepare their Mary and Joseph
costumes, they are also part of another pageant, similarly predictable
but far from comforting. For more than a year, they - and we - have seen
their land sucked deeper and deeper into a vicious cycle of violence. Like
the treasured Christmas pageant, the script changes little, and the players
seem to know their lines fairly well. A bus is blown up; a school is shelled.
The Patience of a
Cactus (December 2, 2001) Italian
version!: In Arabic, "cactus" comes from the same root as "patience":
(a feature also shared by the ill-fated refugee camp in Lebanon). You see
them everywhere here, lining roads and separating property boundaries,
even outlasting the destroyed or abandoned villages they once demarcated.
Hope Is Dead.
Long Live Hope. (November 1, 2001): On Saturday, October 20,
nineteen year-old Johnny Yusuf Thaljiah was shot and killed by Israeli
military gunfire....An altar boy in the Orthodox Church, Johnny was hit
in the chest by a bullet as he played with his four year-old nephew in
Bethlehem's Manger Square. He died moments later, in the shadow of the
Church of the Nativity.
Turning to Face
(September 23, 2001): Suicide bombings obviously deny one's humanity
as well as that of one's victims, but suffocating collective punishment
is no less dehumanizing, for it sees the other as nothing but an enemy
- to be feared and removed. If there is any word of hope, any crumb from
here that can feed a world hungry for answers, it is this: do not fall
prey to the gods of war.
Two Paths (September
Candlelight vigils. Prayer services of remembrance
and mourning. Rallies of solidarity. Blood drives. Institutions
closed out of respect for the untold numbers of victims and their families.
Official and individual statements of support and outrage. All of
these are happening in Palestinian communities of the West Bank and Gaza
in response to the horror unleashed upon the United States three days ago.
Prayers from Palestine
(September 11, 2001): We are in Zababdeh, safe and sound. We have been
watching the television with disbelief and horror for the past several
hours. During that time, many of our friends and neighbors here have
expressed their concern and grief for the enormous tragedies today in the
United States....Please know that the thoughts and prayers of many Palestinians
are with those touched by the horror of today. As are ours.
A Plea (August
23, 2001): This summer we spent much of our time in the Ramallah area
studying Arabic at Birzeit University. From our summer residence,
we were able to travel regularly to Jerusalem and Ramallah, which gave
us the chance to taste parts of the Palestinian culture not available to
us in the nothernmost reaches of the West Bank. Much of our time
was spent in Areas C and B, the categories of the West Bank still under
Israeli military control.
A Sort of Homecoming...
(July 18, 2001): And so, we find that even Zababdeh isn’t quite like
home either. We share with so many of our neighbors a sense of homelessness,
whether literal or emotional. There is a vision of healing for such a place,
offered by the Apostle Paul. Speaking to the uprooted in Ephesus,
he says that belonging to the church means that we are no longer strangers
or aliens, but members and citizens of the household of God.
Tongues of Fire
(June 1, 2001):
It was hot. Really hot. Instead of cooling
us, the wind brought more searing heat and stinging sand as we marveled
at the ancient city of Ur, nestled in the Iraqi desert. But the heat
and wind could not stop us from exploring the immense stone ruins, for
we were on a pilgrimage to the roots of our faith.
He Is Not Here
(April 22, 2001):
Over the forty days of Lent, and particularly over
Holy Week this year, we had drawn our own parallels between the humiliating
treatment of the modern Body of Christ in this land and the via dolorosa
walked by the historical Christ. We hungered to hear what parallel
the message of resurrection would mean in this context.
The Power of the
Weak (March 29, 2001): No doubt you heard about the tragic shooting
that happened March 26. Ten month-old Shalhevet Pass, infant daughter
of Israeli settlers, was murdered by a sniper from the Palestinian Abu
Sneineh neighborhood of Hebron. The news broke our hearts, reminding
us of the 100+ children who have been killed in the last seven months.
The Vision of Achaia
(March 16, 2001): “Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their
resources with the saints in Jerusalem. They owe it to them – they
have come to share in their spiritual blessings, so they ought to be of
service to them.” (Romans 15:25-26)
Obstacles to Peace
(February 16, 2001): All of the traffic was turning off of the main
road. Our taxi followed suit, and we headed with the rest of Ramallah's
rush hour travellers through a residential neighborhood and its narrow
dirt lanes....One hour later, feeling angry and claustrophobic, we could
see our destination. We re-entered the main road again, one hundred yards
south of where we had left it.
The Death of a Child
(January 15, 2001): On Thursday, January 11, fourth grader Annas al-Ahmad
died on the playground of the Latin Patriarchate College of Zababdeh.
Annas, who was born with a hole in his heart, was playing soccer with friends
before school. When the ball hit him squarely in the chest, he immediately
collapsed and began gasping for breath.
No Room at the Inn
(December 17, 2000): It is our hope that, during the hustle and bustle
of Christmas in the West, as lights are strung from tree to tree, and the
ubiquitous sound of carols fills the air, that fellow Christians realize
that the land where it all began will be silent and dark.
Among the Olive Branches
(November 26, 2000): Some trees have been here since the Romans controlled
these lands, nearly 2000 years ago. These grand patriarchs carry
meaning for the Christian minority here. Like the Christian community,
these trees have witnessed the oppression of Roman, Ottoman, and Israeli
occupations. And, like the Believers, the trees persevere, and continue
to grow and bear good fruit.
Life is Daily Heartbreak
(November 7, 2000): Friends, we are weary. To live here is exhausting
- emotionally and physically. The West Bank is under closure, there
are Israeli blockades between population areas, and every day is a constant
reminder of occupation: planes fly low overhead, sonic booms rattle the
entire building, power is cut off to nearby villages, work is drying up.
Made in the USA
(October 16, 2000):
Last night, after church, we spoke with a woman
who told us that she felt abandoned and betrayed by America. “We are not
asking for money or help from America,” she said. “We just want them
to speak the truth.”
(October 8, 2000): For a couple of days, the news from Serbia has removed
the Middle East from the front page. Here in Palestine, it sat on
the TV as a striking counterpoint to the escalating violence in this region.
(October 2, 2000):
No doubt you have seen at least some of the coverage
of the last five days of bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
The death toll is around forty, mostly Palestinians, while the injured
totals hover around 1000.