May 16

Our emotions are high and low.  We found ourselves leaving Bethlehem with heavy hearts.  It had become home.  I for one felt unease as we transitioned from our Palestinian friends to balance our exposure with the Jewish side of the situation here on the ground.  We visited with a conservative Rabbi that exposed us to Jewish spirituality.

Many of our group felt the flood of emotion as we visited the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum.  We were reminded of the need for balance and listening as we reflected upon the losses the Jewish people endured while the world stood by largely silent.   I for one was most awestruck as I entered the memorial to the children that died in the camps.  Names are read consistently as candles for each victim reflect around you in an otherwise dark room.  I was reminded of Eli Weasel’s book NIGHT as I heard the names of the children and their ages at death.  Weasel find’s himself asking “were is God”.  I find myself wondering were God and the world was then and likewise where God and the world is now when babies die at the checkpoint  because mothers are unable to get to medical care.

The evening saw us divided and sitting in smaller groups with Conservative Jewish families for the Shabbat meal.  We experienced the Jewish traditions and entered into very diverse conversations with our host families.  Some of these conversations were very pleasant and others left group members wanting to rebut.  In this situation we were the guest who had come to listen, observe and share not rebut.  As some will know there are folks on our trip that have a very difficult time not rebutting (including me).

Today, Saturday saw us making another transition.  We moved from Jerusalem toward the Gallilee.  In route we had a great experience with the community at Taybeh.  Here we were unexpectedly merged for a time with a group of pilgrims from Salisbury, Britain.  We listened to Father Abuna Ra’ed tell us about the only exclusively Christian village located in the state of Israel.  We share a moment of worship with out new found friends in the church there.  Those of you who are Mennonite or have had classes with Glendon Blosser will get a chuckle out of the fact that he was asked as a BISHOP in the Mennonite to give the prayer as His Excellence Glendon Blosser.  As we have chided him the remainder of the day he has accepted it with his usual grace and humility.

In Taybeh many of our group purchased the PEACE lamps that the community is becoming known for and dependent upon for incomes for many in the community.  After a short visit to the ruins of St. Georges Church we moved toward Nazareth. (Ask those you know on this trip about blood sacrifices).

The landscape became much greener with Agriculture as we transitioned into the Galilee.  We do not know exactly what our final Sunday of this trip will hold but we can be sure that it will be an adventure with Dorothy and Kevin leading the charge.

Grace and Peace,  Curtis Wheeler