Hope and hospitality; the two words that I feel best describe our time in Beit Sahour, Palestine for the past three weeks. Given the opportunity to stay with local families while we’ve studied and explored here has opened my eyes to an exciting culture and to the challenging realities of living in this land. I enjoyed feeling a part of this community through memorable breakfast conversations, morning walks to school, and searching the friendly streets for favorite lunch items and practicing our progressing Arabic, of course! Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah and many other destinations have been awe-inspiring classroom settings. I’ve never learned more about the rich history and capability of a people, than I have here. With an instilled sense of home, I have felt hospitality. With an informed sense of resilience, I have felt hopeful.
I think it’s safe to say this has been an unforgettable stay in Beit Sahour. Nonetheless we all have different outlets on this journey, and have been actively expressing them. Some students have been willing to share excerpts of their personal reflections of their time in Beit Sahour. Whether it be through poem, prayer, picture, or journal, we hope you can get even a small glimpse of our impactful experiences. Enjoy!
We Can Learn a Lot From Birds
-Megan Bishop 2/14/17
“We can learn a lot from birds in simplicity.
we can learn a lot from birds by what they get to see.
A cardinal’s sign of hope or a loved one that’s passed on.
A dove, a gentle spirit of the peace that’s not all gone.
An eagle that soars high and makes independent trips,
Yet love birds that stay side by side and need companionship.
But look at all these birds and their commonalities,
With open wings they freely soar, not to race, but go with ease.
There are no walls to keep them out and they live in any tree,
And they’re never forced to up and go and take their family.
We can learn a lot from birds and how they live so free,
If we all saw hearts as precious life, what a world that this would be.”
An afternoon’s trip home
-Caleb Schrock-Hurst 2/17/17
“I walk on streets I thought abandoned,
concrete over ancient stones.
Boys on bikes wheel away,
their laughter white in the winter air.
Stray dog packs hop from trash to trash,
searching for something deemed unneeded by higher beings.
They are rewarded for their diligence. Bones snap.
Here, the trees grow out of pavement,
and pavement grows silently into houses.
The world, it seems, is being squeezed.
One side of the monstrous clamp is settled snugly on Jerusalem,
the other is somewhere in the pacific, I assume,
Earth will give in eventually,
and from the poles will burst lava, red,
hot with fading life.
I wrap my khafia tighter and watch my feet.
I move the dust but do not change it.”
-Christina Hershey, 2/19/17
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
On Sunday, we hiked through the beautiful Wadi Qeit, an area between Bethlehem and Jericho where David may have shepherded his flocks. We stopped to read Psalm 23 together, thinking about the environment around us as we listened. We walked alongside a valley traditionally called “the valley of the shadow of death.” We passed green hills covered with “paths of righteousness” that the animals have carved into the grass for generations. We walked alongside streams of water and even stopped for a quick dip in quiet waters.
As we have listened to many stories from Palestinians in the West Bank, it seems to me that they are truly in the darkest of valleys. What has continued to amaze me, and bring me to tears, is the steadfast hope they hold on to even in this dark valley. While I tend to find myself giving in to despair, our new Palestinian friends have showed us to follow the shepherd to the overflowing table in the presence of our enemies and to accept the abundance God is offering there.
-Compiled by Sierra Martin and Elizabeth Resto