Words written in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories

Square One

My friends, I have a lot to say about my time in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (here forward to be referred to as “the (Holy) Land”), and there are many reasons that I’ve chosen to wait until after we get home to start publishing my words, thoughts, and photos with more detailed captions. However, I’ve been writing shortly after each experience, so even though you’ve had to wait to hear my thoughts, these are all fresh in my mind as I write. I hope you will find them worth waiting for.

The most important reason that I’ve waited is that I was afraid of getting in trouble at the Israeli border control on our way out because of what I had to say. As someone in the know told me, you can be banned from coming back to Israel without a special visa (that they almost undoubtedly won’t grant you) if you write “inflammatory” comments about political and national affairs. Though I consider myself to be balanced and compassionate to all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (here forward to be referred to as “the conflict”), I did not want to have to censor myself in order to protect myself from this risk.

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I hope you will find that I am equally critical and complimentary of all sides – all have narratives to share, and one narrative is simply not enough (and it is dangerous to act as if there is only one). I will do my very best to honor all groups with dignity, fairness, and their and my hope for the future. However, I have seen religion at its very best and worst, and both deserve attention and communication. (I didn’t realize just how special freedom of speech was until this trip. I feel truly blessed by it, now, even as I fear negative changes under the new president). I did not want to be prevented from talking about Israeli settlements, the occupation of Palestine, and stories from Palestinians that I met in our travels. Their stories are far too important to remain silent about (or to basically have to rewrite past blog posts when I got home, no longer having the border control possibility making me nervous). I don’t claim to have any answers – we were told more times that I can count that it’s important, not undesirable, to feel confused after seeing, hearing, and experiencing the Holy Land. The victory is not certainty; rather, it’s question marks that lead you inward and outward once again, constantly reminding you that you’re at square one, becoming ever more aware of just how much you don’t know.

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“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

– Isaiah 2:2-5 (NIV)

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